Dino’s Backstage is more than a cabaret — it’s a love story

Joe Carpini

Most bar-restaurant managers are seen, but rarely heard, with the owners quietly mulling in the background, if there at all. At Dino’s Backstageand The Celebrity Room — together, a sophisticated new supper club and live musical cabaret space — that’s never going to be the case. Not with Michael Richard Kelly-Cataldi as its entertainment director and Dino J. Kelly-Cataldi, the plush space’s owner.
Michael is a renowned cabaret singer who has performed throughout the world and now hosts Sunday soirees in The Celebrity Room where he sings his heart out with the Tom Adams Trio beside him. You will never see another venue manager make an entrance with a spotlight, in a Tom Ford tux, wow an audience for two sets with a powerful baritone voice singing songs written before 1964 “with just a few from the ’70s for the kids,” says Michael),andbelt out a theme song he’s specially written for Dino’s Backstage. Then again, you have to know how much of a shared love letter this room is between the pair.
Dino is a legendary Philadelphia restaurant owner whose Napoleon Cafe was a sensation throughout the ’90s in its 15th and Locust streets location. “We wanted a bigger house, with bigger property and to entertain more,” says the equally well-dressed Dino of leaving Philly and opening the duo’s first business in Glenside, a home decor shop, Kelly-Cataldi Home. “That’s where we got such a strong mailing list and connection to our neighbors in Glenside,” says Michael.
Together, they’ve been a couple for 18 years. “We got married in Massachusetts in 2004, and then in our backyard in 2014, when it finally became legal statewide,” states Dino. No matter how successful their home shop was, the pair’s real dream was to open an old-school, Hollywood-themed supper club; “Retro, yes, but with a twist when you consider we’ll host a YouTube channel with live performances,” says Michael.
When Dino’s Backstage — The Celebrity Room (287 N. Keswick Ave. ) opens officially with a ribbon cutting on Sept. 29, it will pop the cork on a stage that regularly features local singer Paula Johns (every Wednesday) and cabaret greats such as Marilyn Maye (Oct. 21-22) and Eddie Bruce (Nov. 18-20). Dino, however, won’t be staring lovingly at them as he does at Michael when he sings.
Still, there are plenty of other things to gaze at and take in at Dino’s. In terms of dining, after you’ve gawked at Dino’s lit-up menu (“easier on the eyes in the dark,” says GM Thomas J. Finnegan), executive chef Scott Howlett’s culinary options are as handsome to look at as they are to taste during dinner and for Sunday brunch. The rooms are a delightful throwback to another time — crystal halo chandeliers, black and white photos of family and familiar Hollywood stars on every wall, leather banquettes inside and black cabana lounge decor outside — yet one with state-of-the-art amenities such as digital stage lighting and a Peavey sound-system just introduced to the U.S.
“The renovations definitely came in at just under $ 2 million,” says Michael. “I think of it as a smaller version of the Taj Mahal …a giant playhouse for adults,” says Dino.
Ask why they chose to open a live music space next door to the Keswick Theatre, rather than just a white linen restaurant, and Michael was quick to respond: “We decided to do a venue with the musical/cabaret component, because no one was doing it — at all,” he says. “If you have a restaurant with entertainment, versus a restaurant without entertainment, I’m going to the restaurant with entertainment 10 times out of 10.”

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