Giovanni Terzulli of Florio’s Doesn’t Mind If You Smoke

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"I'm 66. Very soon I'll be three sixes and I'll be the devil!"Photo: Melissa Hom

Giovanni Terzulli has worked as a waiter in Little Italy since arriving from his native Bari more than 40 years ago. In the mid-sixties he briefly worked at Florios Grill and Cigar Bar, under its namesake owner seven years ago he returned to work for current owner Ralph Amoruso, who, along with his son Larry, operates an anachronistic cigar bar in the front of the restaurant, despite the citys efforts to crack down. We were hoping Terzulli would tell us about the upstairs humidor and custom-knife club that can be reached via an apartment-building hallway, but his lips were zipped about it (membership is about $350, in case youre curious, and you have to either befriend one of the owners or be referred by another member to so much as set your eyes on it). He did, however, tell us a little bit about the movie and military memorabilia gracing his "fame wall."

Do you get a lot of celebrities?
All the movie stars come over here, like Sofia Loren. A lot of movie stars Brooke Shields, Johnny Depp. The last person I served was Eva Longoria she would come every year with her friends before she married the basketball player we had a lot of fun. Now this year she no come. Thats not nice!

How about athletes?
You know who comes is Mike Piazza. And a lot of football players. I got a picture of Tiki Barber. Come in and see my fame wall!

How is the place allowed to operate as a cigar bar?
The cigar bar was before the law went through theyre going back and forth with the city, fighting for the license. I dont like to get into that sort of stuff.

How about the upstairs club? How does one become a member?
That I dont know you gotta talk to my boss [Lawrence Amoruso declined to comment about the club]. Youre not allowed to go unless youre a member.

What sort of cigars do you have? Whats the most expensive one?
We have cigars that are $20, $25, $28. We got cognac hand-rolled. We got a lot of hand-rolled from San Domingo, Honduras. Hes got 2,000 cigars from all over. Im just a waiter on the floor when it comes to cigars, I dont want to be involved.

How old are you? Do you ever feel the effects of working amidst so much smoke?
Im 66 very soon Ill be three sixes and Ill be the devil! I worked years ago when everybody smoked I already worked in a smoky area so I dont worry about it.

You seem to get a lot of military people?
General [Peter] Pace [former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff] was here six months ago. My boss is very friendly with the military bases. He does a lot of benefits for these people. He sends cigars to the troops. Memorial weekend, there was so many military people here, forget about it marines, the navy, the restaurant jumped day and night. My boss buys drinks for these people and everything. A lot of customers buy dinner for these people. We had a group of 40 people with no legs or arms my boss gave them free dinner, cigars, and everything.

Theres a photo of Bush on your wall. Do people argue about politics?
My boss likes Republicans, he doesnt like the Democrats. But you gotta be smart you dont talk politics in a restaurant.