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12.03 Happy Holidays!

Pulse Magazine’s guide to holiday happenings, choice places to shop, gift certificate finds, great restaurants for festive meals or parties and more!

December 2003 – What would we do without the holidays? December would be a long, cold, dreary month. We would miss out on lots of good parties, food and excuses to buy some hot clothes. We would probably lose friends and even family members without the holidays to bring us all together around the punch bowl.

The truth is, the holidays help us all make it through the winter without going crazy. So get out your Santa’s suit, drag out the sexy black velvet dress, stock up on shrimp, vodka and fudge and start shopping. It’s time to celebrate!

And Happy Holidays from all of us at thePulse!

Deck the Halls

One 20-something we know almost got into a fight with her roommate a few Christmases ago when they couldn’t agree on the best way to string holiday lights around their apartment doorway.

Decorations are a big deal and all of us are conditioned by childhood holidays past into believing that our way of decking the halls is best. For instance, how many times have you gotten into a disagreement over what color the bulbs should be in window candles?

No matter what your preference, there’s lot of great places to stock up on holiday decorations before CVS sells out of the little white lights that you have to have on your Christmas tree….

Flowers for the Table: Spags/Stop and Shop: As soon as the Halloween candy gets chucked, Spags trots out all kinds of Christmas paraphernalia. We like to hit Spags for two things early in the season – the big bags of extra large shrimp (recently Spags was selling 50 count bag of shrimp for around $8 – the best price we’ve ever seen) and the piles of boxed white narcissus and amarylis bulbs that anyone can get to bloom.

Since the bulbs only cost around $6 each you can buy several — just rip open the cardboard box, drag out the already potted bulbs, add water and a little window sun –it’s Real Simple.

Spags is also good for all kinds of tree decorations and lights, as well as lawn reindeer, Santas, you name it.

If you don’t want to bother with watering your bulbs, the floral shops in just about every Stop and Shop in Worcester County are filled to the brim during the holidays with all kinds of cut flowers, arrangements, baskets etc. at good prices.

Trimming the Tree: Tower Hill Botanic Garden/The Worcester Center for Crafts: Now it might seem weird to be talking about gardens at this time of year, but Tower Hill is a magnificent place to visit even when the ground is frozen solid. First of all, don’t miss Tower Hill’s “Holly Days” workshops, concerts and exhibits, visit the magicial Orangerie and then there is the giftshop.

Every year we spend way too much money on one of a kind ornaments, snowballs, candles and more in Tower Hill’s gift shop. And then there’s the wind chimes, the charming jewelry, the delicious things to eat.…don’t miss Tower Hill this December.

Our second favorite for unusual Christmas decorations is the gift shop at The Worcester Center for Crafts. Every year there are lots of handmade ornaments fashioned by local and regional craftspeople that may cost a little more than at Walmart, but really spice up a tree….and even if you aren’t decorating anything in your apartment or dorm room, this is a great place to find presents (the hand-made jewelry is really special) for just about anybody on your gift list. For information, go to

Echobrook Nursery: Located on Grafton Street in Worcester, Echobrook Nursery is a wonderland at Christmas-time when the owners pull out all the stops especially during their holiday open house, December 5,6, 7 and 8 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Outside in the nursery area there are lots of cut Christmas trees of all sizes, potted trees, greens of every type imaginable from boxwood to holly, roping and wreaths. Inside in the nursery’s airy, two-story gift shop are all kinds of treasures – pretty jewelry, vases, framed artwork, some lovely dried flower arrangements and much more, as well as pointsettias, Christmas cactus and other flowering live plants. During the Open House, Christmas goodies like cider and cookies will be served.

Christmas shows

Tidings of comfort and joy

We made a few phone calls and cruised through the on line and discovered that there are so many holiday shows scheduled for the month of December that this entire cover story could be nothing but holiday happenings.

So we’re just going to pick out some special upcoming events – if you want the full scoop on what’s going on in Worcester and environs, log onto

A Christmas Carol: Every holiday season in recent memory, Worcester’s Foothills Theatre has produced “A Christmas Carol” with all the magic and splendor befitting this seasonal classic. This year’s show promises to be no less special. The grand opening will be Sunday, November 30 at 8 p.m. and the regular run will go until December 28 with shows Thursday through Sunday. For times and prices, call (508) 754- 3314 or log on to

A Concert of Christmas Carols: If you want to hear Christmas carols sung in the candlelight quiet of a lovely old stone church as part of your holiday season, then go to All Saints Church on Saturday, December 6 at 5 p.m. The free performance is very moving – it’s what Christmas is supposed to be like. For information, e-mail or call (508) 797-3483.

Boston Pops Holiday Concert: At the Worcester Centrum, you can spend a magical afternoon with famed conductor Keith Lockhart and members of the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra as they delight the crowd with a full program of holiday classics, beloved carols and unique Pops arrangements. You can listen, sing-a-long and really get in the spirit at the December 21 concert, which will be held at 2 p.m. Get your tickets fast by going to

Handel’s Messiah: Glor-or-or-rrriiiii-aaaa!! Who can get through the Christmas season without belting out the Messiah, Handel’s magnificent holiday favorite! Don’t miss the Worcester Choruses’ performance, which is especially wonderful heard in Mechanics Hall, on December 6. For information, go to

Holidays at the Higgins: If you never been to Worcester’s very own turreted castle full of priceless suits of armor, real swords and all kinds of fascinating medieval treasures, charge over to the Higgins Armory Museum on 100 Barber Ave. (right behind the Greendale Mall) for the “Holidays at Higgins” on Saturday, December 13 from 10 to 4 p.m. You will see traditional word dancing, a demonstration by a sword guild, help make a gingerbread castle…and best of all, shop in the fun and fanciful museum store which is a great place to get

Holly Days Concerts: On weekends throughout December there will be special holiday shows at Tower Hill Botanic Garden starting with Sunday, November 30 when the Barre Players will perform scenes from the legendary holiday flick “It’s A Wonderful Life” at 1 p.m. For the full schedule, go to

stART at the Bijou: Here’s a special Christmas gift that will keep on giving….support Worcester’s unique, much-loved Bijou Cinema and Worcester’s art community — and get some holiday shopping done at the same time by going to a Holiday Sale featuring artwork and all kinds of crafts by local artists in the newly renovated cinema pub. The Sunday, December 14 event from 12 to 6 p.m. will also feature live music, as well as delectable desserts, beer and wine….and you can finish the fun day off with a flick! For information, contact

Clockwise from top: Steven Tyler of Aerosmith at the Worcester Centrum; John Davin will be Scrooge in Foothill’s Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol,”; Keith Lockhart will conduct the Centrum’s Boston Pops concert; Amy Grant and Vince Gill who will come to the Centrum in December.

The scoop on just released dvd’s for xmas!

Okay, so you’ve completely run out of ideas for Christmas presents. Never fear! From The Alien Quadilogy to Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean, our stellar film writer Robert Newton has some fine ideas for just-out DVDs that will be just the thing for anyone on your list.

Released December 2

Alias: Season Two [NR]. The mystery begins to unfold in this nifty second-season set of the dramatic Emmy-winning action series.

The Alien Quadrilogy [R]. A whopping 9 discs, including special editions of all four movies — Alien (1979), Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992) and Alien: Resurrection (1997) — will not only help make this set a best-seller this holiday season, but will also hype next summer’s long-awaited Alien Vs. Predator movie.

The Ben Stiller Show [NR]. It may have been canceled after 12 episodes, but the lovable shlub’s Emmy-winning 1992 Fox series is finally available so that all might enjoy its sheer comic power. It also stars longtime pals Andy Dick, Janeane Garofalo and Bob Odenkirk, who later went on to co-create the cult favorite, “Mr. Show” (see also Melvin Goes To Dinner, 12.16.2003).

Pirates of the Caribbean [PG-13]. Disney’s smash hit of the summer starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush and the adorable Kiera Knightley is now a wicked cool double DVD set. Fans of the movie and the ride it was based on should check out the excellent fan site,

Released December 9

Assassination Tango [R]. Robert Duvall is a hired assassin with a penchant for dancing in this dark thriller, which the Oscar-winning actor also wrote and directed.

Bad Boys II [R]. As much as one might try to dislike this loud, abrasive, over-produced action comedy, charismatic stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence make it difficult to dismiss it entirely.

The Battle of Shaker Heights [PG-13]. The second film to be released as a result of the Matt Damon/Ben Affleck brainchild “Project Greenlight” is pretty innocuous, but Holes star Shia LeBoeuf, as a teen wise beyond his years, is stellar. The first “Project Greenlight” film, Stolen Summer is also available, as is the first season of the show.

Released December 12-16

Freaky Friday (2003) [PG]. While it may not, for some, match the (as-yet unavailable) 1976 Disney original, about a mother and daughter who switch bodies, this is still a lot of fun, thanks mostly to leads Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen [PG-13]. Studio Fox had no idea how to market this dark and unconventional superhero yarn starring Sean Connery, though it is certainly worth a look on DVD.

Melvin Goes to Dinner. “Mr. Show” co-creator Bob Odenkirk directs this stream-of-consciousness comedy about a group of friends, a la My Dinner With Andre and Waking Life. The first three seasons of “Mr. Show” are now on DVD, as is the “Mr. Show” movie, Run Ronnie Run.

Rugrats Go Wild! [G]. Nickelodeon staples The Rugrats meet the Wild Thornberrys in this irreverent animated adventure, which features the voice of Bruce Willis as Spike, a dog that sings [insert too-easy punch line here].

Seabiscuit [PG-13]. This year’s early Oscar favorite about the legendary race horse stars web-slinger Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges and Oscar-winner Chris Cooper.

The Underground Comedy Movie [NR]. This omnibus feature in the vein of Kentucky Fried Movie and The Groove Tube features the comedy stylings of Joey Buttafuoco, a drunken Slash from Guns ‘N’ Roses and Michael Clarke Duncan, whose mother obviously needed an operation. Perhaps one of the most all-around offensive movies…ever. Not for children, or adults, for that matter.

Released December 23

Alex & Emma [PG-13]. Hit-hungry Rob Reiner’s farce about a desperate writer, played by Luke Wilson (Old School) who meets a tight stenographer, played by Kate Hudson (How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days) and the love affair that inevitably follows the sparks.

Anything Else [R]. Woody Allen’s tribute to Woody Allen is a reworked version of his own Annie Hall, only with less humor and more of Christina Ricci in her underpants.

L’Auberge Espagnole. A melting pot of European college students learn to just get along in a Barcelona flat in this engaging comedy.

I Capture the Castle. This solid drama tells the story of a once-prosperous family that falls on hard times, and stars Bill Nighy (Love Actually) and Henry Thomas (Gangs Of New York). Based on the novel by Dodie Smith (101 Dalmatians).

Christmas Food

It’s Christmas-time in the city….

Of course, the holidays are supposed to be about home and hearth. But the truth is that part of the fun of the holidays is cruising around the city, admiring the glittery, decorated store windows, looking at the big tree in front of City Hall festooned with decorations made by local school kids – ah yes and feasting at the area’s restaurants.

When you’re tired of shopping and need a little break from holiday demands, be comforted with a meal at one of these local restaurants, most of which also have private function rooms for family or company parties.

Anthony’s: We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again…Anthony’s is one of the best Italian restaurants in the area, not just because the food is superb but also because the atmosphere is always warm, candle-lit, charming – even on days when the wind whips down Shrewsbury Street. This is also a great place to have a private party – check out the Serafini Room.

Try Anthony’s for delicious fresh fish, tender veal and superb hand-made pasta. You’ll see why their chef John Picolo was voted Worcester’s best in 2003.

Calabria Ristorante: Calabria’s main dining area is a big open room with floor to ceiling windows that gives you a great view of the scene streaming up and down the hottest street in the city – Shrewsbury, of course — and there is also a private function room available for holiday get-togethers. Of course, the food is Italian with an emphasis on steaks, chops, veal and seafood. The hearty antipasto choices here are very good and the reasonable prices for a wide range of entrees make this relatively new spot a welcome addition to the Street.

El Basha: There’s something about Worcester and ethnic restaurants – one food critic we know says that it is the city’s ethnic restaurants that really make dining an enjoyable experience here. Anyone who has been to the Worcester Magazine’s 2003 “Best Of Worcester” Readers’ Poll Middle Eastern restaurant winner, El Basha, agrees.

El Basha, at 424 Belmont Street and Route 9, is the perfect place to go for a soothing lunch. Recharge your batteries with some tasty, real-thing stuffed grape leaves, some delicious kibbe – this restaurant, which can also be found at a new location on 256 Park Avenue, just gets better every year.

Flying Rhino: Another one of Shrewsbury Street’s gems, The Flying Rhino, has some delicious homemade soups – just the thing on cold shopping days — including yummy chowder and chili, as well as all kinds of tasty sandwiches, wraps and entrees for both lunch and dinner.

And if you’re looking for a place to unwind after a hard day of holiday preparations, check out The Rhino’s specialty martini list. The Wormown Margarita featuring Tequilla and Cointreau with just a splash of fresh lime and OJ will help anyone get through the holidays. And then there’s the Godiva Martini (Stoli Vanilla and Crème de Cocao) or if things are especially stressful, the Rhino Tranquilizer featuring Stoli, Grand Marnier, Amaretto, Cointreau with just an appropriately holiday red, splash of cranberry juice!

Primo’s: It might seem like we’re partial to Shrewsbury Street (might have something to do with the fact that thePulse’s offices are here), but really, the Boulevard (which is also the name of a great diner on the Street!) just seems to be chock-a-block full of good places to eat and drink. And Primo’s is another popular Italian spot that packs people in for delicious homemade pasta dishes, unusual soups and hearty salads.

The décor is especially charming at Primo’s, which used to be an Italian bank in the days when Shrewsbury Street was the city’s Little Italy. There are all kinds of intimate nooks and crannies where diners can enjoy a creatively prepared meal.

Right across the street from Primo’s is Porto Bello, which is one of our favorite places to go for homemade lasagna or a tasty and filling chicken and broccoli pasta dish that is the ultimate comfort food. For lunch or dinner, Porto Bello is a warm bistro with reasonable prices, a full bar and friendly wait staff.

If you really need to recharge your batteries to get through December, don’t miss one of Shrewsbury Street’s newest eateries, Miranda Bread located right at 140 Shrewsbury right across from D’Errico’s Market.

Offering all kinds of scrumptious breads and pastries as well as international coffees and a full line of natural juices from the Amazon, Miranda Bread is a good place to cruise through on your way to Spags or if you’re looking to stock up on goodies for your holiday soiree.

Another good place to find mouth-watering cakes, pies, breads and pastries is Bahnan’s Bakery at 106-112 Water Street, which also has a café that serves lunch, dinner and late night treats. Water Street is fast becoming one of the city’s hippest streets – a wave of new restaurants, stores and clubs is sure to make 2004 a banner year for this conveniently located community right off Kelley Square.

And last but not least, if you’re looking for truly decadent Italian cannolis, pastries, cookies to your holiday party memorable, stop by Wholly Cannoli on Grafton Street.

Gift Certificates

Santa Claus is coming…

Looking for that unusual gift for someone special? Here’s some local shops and businesses that offer great gift certificates as well as some special gifts.

AMF Jewelers: This is the perfect place to find a special present for either your girlfriend, your sister or your Mom. Check out the new line of Cape Cod jewelry. 701 Southbridge St., Auburn.

Bancroft School of Massage: What could be better than this – give someone you really care about a gift certificate for a massage – the perfect present during the sometimes stressful holiday season. Located on Shrewsbury Street, the Bancroft School of Massage offers a complete line of massage services as well as several kinds of exercise classes and more.

ClayTime: This is an idea that keeps on giving…at ClayTime’s pottery studios in Worcester and now in Shrewsbury you can either make your own gifts or give your close friends a holiday party – and then they can give the gifts they create and paint with their own hands to other friends or family members! Located at 805 Pleasant Street in Worcester and on Route 9 in Shrewsbury, ClayTime is a popular place during the holiday season!

H&B Wines and Liquors: Here’s a sparkling concept – H&B Wines and Liquors located at 725 Grafton Street, Worcester has a full line of top-shelf wine, beer, liquor and liqueurs that can be gift packaged for that person on your list who already has everything. Other ideas — how about a wine basket or a decorated case of wine? H&B will even be open on Sunday until Christmas!

Miraculous Creations: Give someone you love a free piercing at this Park Avenue emporium which has been voted best tattoo parlor several years running in Worcester Magazine’s “Best of Worcester” Readers’ Poll. Check out the tattoos, the piercing and branding and the body jewelry. Log on to

Paul Conzo: We have personally tried out the full body massage in the spa at Paul Conzo’s salon on Shrewsbury Street, and we can tell you that it is a gift from heaven for just about anyone. You can get a gift certificate for a marvelous package that includes a cleansing steam shower, total rubdowns with sea salts and warm water and then a personalized massage from head to toe with warm scented oils. Give this to someone you love!

Tanfabulous: What could be better? Give someone a gift certificate to Tanfabulous – they’ll thank you for making them feel – and look – better! The Lincoln Street salon offers all kinds of value packages including student specials (students tan for under $4!).

Tropic Sun: Seven days a week, Tropic Sun, which has three salons in Worcester, Auburn and Hudson, gives “smart tans” to happy customers. This “Best of Worcester” winner has state of the art facilities and a $19.95 per month Club Plan – get this for someone special and they can have unlimited tanning! Stop in for details.

Vibes: Worcester’s new Gay Pride store is a bright addition to the jazzing up that’s happening all up and down Water Street. Stop here and find all kinds of perfect presents for the man or woman in your life, including artwork, movies, cards and novelties.

Wachusett Mountain Ski Area: We are lucky to have a first-rate ski area in our backyard. Why not give someone a few days of skiing or snowboarding? Check out the great deals Wachusett is offering. Log on to

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11.03 Worcester’s World Champion

On September 13 of this year, at approximately 6 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Worcester’s Jose Rivera found himself in a boxing ring in Berlin, Germany, physically exhausted after 12 rounds of boxing and straining through the noise and confusion to hear if the ring announcer would say his name.

November 2003 – “I couldn’t understand what they were talking about,” he recalls. “I just kept waiting to hear my name. If I hear the name, then I know who won.”

Rivera felt that he had outfought his opponent, WBA world welterweight champion Michel Trabant of Germany; but he also knew that he was on enemy turf, and that strange things happen with regularity in the tumultuous world of professional boxing. He had been working 14 years for this moment, and it had all come down to the matter of a foreign announcer in a foreign land pronouncing his name.

“When they mentioned my name,” he recalls, “then it was an overwhelming feeling like, “Oh my goodness, I did it,” and I just dropped on my knees and thanked God, kind of like in unbelief.”

The German fight fans believed it, however, and they even booed the one judge who had scored the fight even. Rivera’s fans back in Worcester believed it, having suffered the agony of watching the fight on a one-frame-per-ten-seconds web cast. Who wouldn’t want to believe it? It confirmed the old fashioned notion that good things sometimes do happen to good people; that hard work pays off; and that nice guys sometimes do finish first.

Jose Antonio Rivera came to Worcester in 1990 — came here from Springfield, where he was living with an aunt and felt he was going nowhere. He came to Worcester because of Carlos Garcia, the fabled boxing coach at the Ionic Avenue Boys and Girls Club. Garcia had told him that he would work with him, which was enough of a promise to induce the 16-year-old to make the move to a strange city. Garcia also told him he had to finish high school as part of the bargain, and so Rivera took an apartment with fellow boxer Bobby Harris and diligently completed his studies at South High School.

It was the “sweet science” of boxing that attracted him, however, and it was that curriculum that he pursued with dedication in the bowels of the city’s aging Ionic Avenue clubhouse — day after day, season after season, pounding the heavy bag, rattling the speedbag, and swinging away at Garcia’s training mitts as they performed their familiar training ritual in the basement ring.

From time to time, in those days, Garcia would turn to local businessman Steve Tankanow for financial assistance when he wanted to take his pupils to some boxing tournament. At some point along the way, Rivera caught Tankanow’s eye, and he agreed to sponsor the fighter when he turned pro. Over the course of the years, as the young man’s career developed, the trio became “Team Rivera”, making periodic forays into far-flung gymnasiums and auditoriums as “El Gallo” gradually worked his way through the ranks. There were injuries; there were losses; there were agonizingly mistimed illnesses; and there were whole years when they could not find the next rung of the promotional ladder. Like his fighting style itself, Rivera’s career has been an exercise in persistence — persistence that on September 13 paid off, finally, in triumph.

“I could have gone my whole career without the opportunity for a world championship — that happens to many fighters. I may have not ever gotten the opportunity for this fight. But I was very fortunate, and I hung in there with patience. I worked hard for this.”

El Gallo is 30 years old now, an age when many boxing careers begin to reach the upward reach of their arcs. Divorced in 1998, he takes seriously his responsibilities towards his 10 year old son; he has a young fiancee; he has a respectable job with the Worcester Juvenile Court. He is beginning to look beyond boxing now — to a college degree and whatever life-after-boxing doors that might open. What he still hasn’t had is a major league payday, and the financial boost that can give to his aspirations. With a championship in hand, that day may be coming soon, but each fight and each purse is still a rigorously calculated enterprise for him and his team. The welterweight division is a notoriously tough one, in which the combination of speed and power can conjure up both explosive violence and big money. Rivera understands both the rewards and the risks of this phase of his hard-fashioned career.

“I probably feel like I have six fights left in me and then I want to be done,” he says. “I throw it out there — to my family, to my fiancé — and I tell them that if there comes a point where I have had enough, please let me know. I have accomplished one goal; now the next goals are not too far behind. So it shouldn’t take too long, if it happens at all. It shouldn’t take too long to achieve those goals and get myself and my son situated before I shouldn’t have to fight anymore. Then I can go to school and do other things with my life.”

But for the moment — and he is learning to relish it — Rivera is world champion. He is the city of Worcester’s favorite adoptive son and Exhibit A for the notion that one really can make dreams come true — a subject that he addresses directly when he talks — as he does regularly — to local youth.

“I tell the kids that they can be anything they want to be and do anything they want to do,” he says: “As long as they are willing to put the work into it and make the sacrifices they need, it can happen. Now the only difference is some dreams don’t come true and some don’t happen, but along the way, as you’re working for that, many other things happen, many other doors open, many other opportunities or good things happen for you, because you were willing to put in the work for your dreams.

“I don’t feel like I deserved this,” he continues. “I think God has blessed us and he gives us things, even if we don’t deserve them; but you have to earn it, and I feel this I earned. I worked for this — no one gave it to me. I don’t deserve it, but I earned it. “

His supporters, to a one, agree.

Photos: from top to bottom-
1. Jose Rivera displays his trophy-belts from several championship fights.
2. When he’s not boxing, Jose Rivera is a court officer at the Worcester Juvenile Court.
3. Jose hits it hard at his personal gym on Shrewsbury Street.
4. Jose and his two sisters Anna Guzman (l) and Maria Rivera-Ortiz after winning the MA state championship in 1991
5. Jose’s 10 year old son Anthonee, a student at Worcester’s Arts Magnet School

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10.03 Halloween hot spots

Where to find Halloween happenings in Worcester and beyond…

By Susan Dewey

October 2003 – The area’s best costumes and decorations, parties with $1000 prizes, great music, free food and more!

Remembering Brookfields Murder

There’s something about this part of the world and Halloween. Maybe it’s just Massachusetts — after all one of the things the state is most famous for is the ancient Salem Witch Trials when 19 people were either hung or crushed to death beneath piles of rocks for supposedly practicing the Devil’s arts on sweet Massachusetts maidens. Worcester County has it’s own share of spooky legends and scary stories…like the one about Bathsheba Spooner of North Brookfield who in 1778 convinced her lover and his pals to kill her husband and dump him in the family well.

That same year the pregnant Bathsheba was hung on the gallows before thousands of excited ghouls in Washington Square, right in front of Worcester’s Union Station. She was the last woman ever to be executed in Massachusetts. Maybe that’s why today’s rotary in Washington Square is so deadly…

Our Famous

Bet you didn’t know that Worcester is also home to a VERY famous Halloween mail-order business called the…which was described in a 2000 article in the Wall Street Journal as the best Halloween website in the country. We’re not making this up and if you haven’t checked out the Fright Catalog before getting your costume this year, you should be hung.

Before deciding what you want to be for Halloween this year, you should also visit Worcester’s other Halloween claim to fame, the Halloween Outlet on West Boylston Street (which moved from Park Avenue three years ago). The Halloween Outlet, which opened its doors in 1990, is owned by the same family that dreamt up the Fright Catalog.

We called Mark Arvanigian, the 30-year-old born and bred Worcesterite who is happily running the Fright Catalog from Barber Street, appropriately behind Higgins Armory, another marvelously strange, magical Worcester place where you can see real knights in shining armor and all kinds of other legendary, medieval treasures. (If you want to learn how to wield a REAL sword before Halloween, Higgins Armory gives classes in fencing.) Arvanigian, who went to Shrewsbury’s St. John’s, says his family’s $2 million catalog business fills 500 orders a day from August through Halloween.

“We mailed out 150,000 catalogs this year,” Arvanigian says, noting that the company has even developed their own product line, Morbid Industries, which imports products from places like Sri Lanka and China.

Arvanigian says that this year, costumes inspired by the Jason and Freddie, “Nightmare before Christmas” and “Matrix” movies are especially hot. Kobe costumes and other somewhat “untasteful things” will also probably be hot, Arvanigian says…..but probably the biggest seller is the Fright Catalog’s Zombie costume.

Arvanigian’s sister Nicole who runs the Halloween Outlet with her sister Christine says that working in such a place is a blast. “It’s fun helping the customers put their costumes together – and also I like working with my family,” says the 24 year old Nicole, noting that her big dream is to “see us have stores nationwide and be known worldwide.”

If you check out the Fright Catalog’s website you will see why this Worcester business is breaking all kinds of records….there are so many creepy, crawly, ugly, sexy, scary costumes, books, lights, masks, make-up and more that there just isn’t room to describe them all. But don’t miss the “10-Skull Candelabra” ($89) — or the “Bad Skin & Robbins Mask” ($19.99)…and then there’s the “Bone Saw” for $4.99, or my personal favorite, the vinyl and lycra “Cat Suit” for $49.

No matter what you want to be on this night when we all get to indulge our secret fantasies, log on to Fright, call 1-888-4-FRIGHT or stop by Worcester’s Halloween Outlet .

Spooky World’s 13th Season

Of course, Spooky World, covering 60 acres behind Foxboro Stadium, is probably our area’s best-known Halloween attraction, located just down Route 495 a ways. And since this is the theme park’s 13th year, all kind of bad things are reportedly planned for October and All Hallows Eve.

At the entrance to the park there will be a Halloween Festival with carnival rides and the park’s haunted house, Elvira’s Nightmare Mansion full of “grisly secrets and scary sights.” Spooky World’s web site says this is a “Five Skull Attraction”, as is their “highest caliber of circus entertainment” the Krazy Killer Klown House. The park has four other haunted houses including the House of Fangs, the 3D Haunted House and the Spirits of London walk.

And then there’s what’s identified as Spooky World’s “number one attraction” (we’ve all got to see this one) Mouse Girl. There are 3 Halloween museums, a gift shop and a Monster Midway featuring food and games. The real Jason from the “Friday the 13th” series is rumored to be making an appearance there this year…

Spooky World is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from October 3 to November 1. The park opens at 6 p.m. No tickets are sold after 10 p.m. Tickets are $23.50 and can also be purchased at

If you’re looking for a place to take a haunted hayride once you get dressed up, Witch’s Wood’s of Nashoba Valley up the other way on 495, offers hayrides, a nightmare mansion and a “keeper crypt” where you they say you can commune with “the living dead”. We’ve never been there, but according to the website, the park is located in a deep, dark wooded place where a coven of witches once met to practice black magic…..

Like Spooky World, Witch’s Woods is quite expensive….$18 for adults. The park is open Thursday through Sunday, evenings through October including Halloween night. The park opens at 6:30 p.m.

Downtown’s costume parties….thousands of dollars in prizes!

If you don’t feel like driving and want to get your Halloween fun closer to Worcester, there’s all kinds of club parties, movie screenings, neighborhood goings-on and more. At the famed Lucky Dog Music Hall on Worcester’s Green Street, the Deadites Secret Twilight Society will hold their annual Halloween show, which is always a big event. According to the description on the Social Web, “the Deadites….are known to pack New England clubs with their own brand of electronic dance music…dancing, sweating, killing Zombies and having fun.” The Deadites party will go on from 8:30 to 2 a.m. on Halloween night.

Dave Domenick, Worcester’s “King of Clubs” who runs the big Atrium Complex, the elegant Art Bar and the brand new Sh-Booms, has all kinds of festivities planned for Halloween. Domenick says that all three downtown Worcester clubs will hold “Best Costume Contests” at midnight with some hefty, $500 prizes awarded at the three locations. We also talked to Shaun Smith who is running the new Sh-Booms on Worcester Center Boulevard. “Some of the costumes we get here every year are unbelievable,” Smith says, noting that Sh-Boom’s is always “packed” on Halloween. The new Sh-Booms, which will feature re-formatted music in 3 snazzy new, music rooms (rock, R&B/Reggae/hip-hop and Top 40), will be open Halloween night for 19-plus girls and 21 and over guys for the regular cover charge of $5.00.

Parking is right upstairs in the parking garage for $4. And speaking of cars, don’t miss the new antique cars on display, some of which Smith says have been chopped and put on the wall….

On the other side of the city, Jillian’s at 315 Grove Street is also planning a big bash this year. Paula Kwiatowski, regional manager, tells us that Jillian’s is busy planning “a great Halloween this year.”

Kwiatowski says the very popular, local band Probable Cause will be playing at the snazzy pool hall/club/bar from 10 p.m. to the wee hours. There will be also be a costume contest sponsored by Jillian’s & Coors Light. And how’s this for a big incentive… a $1000 cash prize will be given for one, over-all best costume.

All the judging will be done by mystery judges, so everyone who comes to Jillian’s will be entered in the contest automatically. Kwiatowski says the judging will be between the hours of 9 to 11 p.m, with the winner announced at midnight. There will be additional prizes awarded by Coors Light for the scariest costume, cutest costume, most original costume and the most wicked costume.

Shrewsbury Street’s Halloween Blockbuster!

Shrewsbury Street will be buzzing more than usual on that Halloween night when four bars, The Flying Rhino, Jeff’s, Zipango and Bottom’s Up will join forces for the second year in a row with a big blockbuster of a party. Paul Barber, the energetic owner of The Flying Rhino says cash prizes over $1000, plus additional promotional prizes, will be given to several contestants. “Contestants need to visit each of four clubs between 9 p.m. and midnight,” says Barber, explaining that the winners, who will be checked out by judges at all four clubs, will be announced at The Rhino at 12:30.

“Each place on the street will have DJs and music,” Barber continues, noting that last year there were over 300 contest entries. “This year we’re hoping for over 500 contestants,” Barber says. “We had so much fun last year – the whole street came alive.” For information on the Shrewsbury Street bash, contact Jeff at Jeffs, Paul at the Rhino, Jeff at Bottom’s Up or Pat at Zipango’s.

Party early at Tavern Bash

Of course there are lots of Halloween-time happenings outside the city limits, but one of the biggest we know about is on the Brookfield-side of Worcester. (Maybe poor Bathsheba will make an appearance!) You can get a jumpstart on your Halloween festivities with one of the largest costume parties west of the city when Brookfield resident Brian Silva will hold his 5th annual Halloween Bash at the Ye Olde Tavern on Route 9 in West Brookfield from 8 pm to 1 am on Friday, October 24.

At Silva’s bash you can join hundreds of other Halloween junkies and enjoy live music by two popular local bands including Uncle Billy’s Smokehouse performing 70’s inspired rock with an original twist, and Blubein who Silva says “fill the air with funky grooves and psychedelic jams. Both bands play just the right mix of originals and cover tunes to keep the crowd moving.” Silva also says that J Thomas and DJ Mati will be on hand to mix-up some beats and keep the dance floor hopping during the set breaks.

Costumes are required at Silva’s bash and prizes will be awarded to the best three. The event is 21 plus and there is a cover charge of $5 with your own costume, or $8 if you need to be provided with a costume.

Dress up at Centerfold’s!

On the other side of Worcester, Centerfolds 2000 in North Oxford, “the gentlemen’s gentlemen club” known for a hot line-up of scantily clad ladies, will ask customers to dress up for their annual Halloween Costume Contest. Customers who come in costume will get free admission and enjoy a “wicked good party” including a complementary buffet. For information, call Centerfolds at (508) 987-5222.

Of course, no Halloween would be complete without a screening of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show”, the cult classic that will never die. The Clark University Film Society will hold a special FREE midnight showing of the film at the Jefferson Academic Center, 950 Main Street, Worcester.

Photos from top to bottom:
1. A mural of Bathsheba Spooner from the Worcester Courthouse
2. Photo by Dan Vaillancourt, Costume from Haloween Outlet

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09.03 Nightlife!

September 2003 – We’ll start with The Above Club and go all the way through to Zara Jazz Club. In this issue of the Pulse we’re featuring Worcester’s night-life. Where to get a great apple martini. How to find late night eats like eggs any way, bacon, ham, sausage, homefries and toast for less than the cost of a CD or a good lipstick. The best places to listen to live music and of course, dance.

Here’s short bits and some pics on over 40 Worcester clubs. There’s lots of nightlife in Worcester. You just have to know where to find what you’re looking for.

Looking for a good martini?

Martinis. A drink that always looks good and make you feel fine no matter where you find it. Of course the special martinis have a big allure, like the popular apple martini which has that devilish sweet, green glow. But purists say the only way to have a really good martini is pure unvarnished vodka or gin with a whisper of vermouth, poured straight up over crushed ice into in a chilled glass, garnished with one perfect olive or a lemon twist.

There’s lots of places in town where you can get a good martini. Since we’re doing the alphabet thing, we’ll start with The Art Bar, which we’ll mention for lots of different reasons in this section. Sit back in one of The Art Bar’s comfy couches and slowly sip an excellent martini.

Boston Billiards on Grove St., has been remodeled recently and now features an upscale martini bar with couches and a fireplace where you can sit and sip a ‘tini or shoot pool until 2 a.m., seven days a week. They are trying hard to make this place as successful as the Boston version…at last year’s opening, they served some swanky food (the waitresses there are known to be mini-skirted hotties) and the drinks were excellent. Some big names in the billiards world pass through for special events……

At Foo Bar on Park Avenue, a very handsome man (featured in the Pulse’s spring fashion issue), Mr. Bernard Young, will make you a smooth martini, perfect for sipping in Foo Bar’s small, yet sophisticated space. Bernard, who also owns Foo Bar, was voted Wormtown Nightlife’s “Best Bartender of the Year”. He deserves special mention because he’s a terrific bartender, no matter what he’s mixing. The martinis are very good too. You can dance at Foo Bar to R&B and Top 40 tunes or pull up a chair on a slow night and watch your favorite sporting event on a big screen TV.

Next on the martini short list is Goodfella’s on Shrewsbury Street. Now this is a place that actually specializes in martinis and the list of choices for the drink of swings is long. We have a friend who says Goodfellas makes the best apple martini in town — the decor is also cool and smooth and the Sinatra music makes the whole experience flow together.

Of course, My Martini Bar, at 1 Exchange Place in the Atrium complex, makes every known martini and serves them with style on an elegant, spacious bar in a New York- sophisticated, club-style atmosphere. Also you can wander out to the courtyard to hear the live music under the stars at The Atrium…or head upstairs to The Copper Fox, the newest addition to this entertainment center, where you can get something tasty to keep you going for yet another martini.

We’ve also heard that My Martini Bar has become very popular on Alternative Night when the Cosmopolitans are killer, the conversation flows and the cuties are everywhere.

Back on Shrewsbury Street, we like One Eleven Chophouse and Pete the bartender, who makes almost any drink with style – but his Grey Goose martinis are top shelf. Enjoy one at One Eleven’s superb bar which also features a terrific (and relatively inexpensive) bar menu.

Red 1888 gets kudos for lots of things – it’s elegant, sexy and has a great bar – and the martinis here are as good as the decor and the music. If you’re looking for a dark, romantic, seductively-lit spot where you can sit on a couch and enjoy a martini with someone special after midnight, head for 41 Pleasant Street and Red.

Red also offers music Wednesdays through Saturdays, including hip hop and reggae on Wednesdays, hip hop/techno/dance on Thursday College Nights, vocal progressive house and hip hop on Fridays and hip hop/r&b/dance/techno on Saturdays.

Some people are just good at mixing drinks and one of our favorites for martini-making is Vincent Hemmeter of Vincent’s on Suffolk Street and his pal, bartender David Ritchie, just up the hill from the Kenmore Diner. Look for a small, but bright place that says “This Is It” in the window. That’s Vincent’s, which doesn’t look like much on the outside, but here you can get a first-rate martini in a bar full of treasures — like a superb jukebox, some fascinating Worcester memorabilia and a one-foot tall martini glass….

Where to find live music

No matter what your musical taste, there is a place in Worcester County where you can hear live music. We’ll start with The Above Club on Park Ave. in Worcester which used to be the kind of place that featured folk music and strong coffee…but has been reincarnated as a hot spot where you can find live music from blues to salsa.

Every Friday night, “Club Candela” salsa, merengue and bacahata bring them in at The Above Club for $5, $10-$12, when a band is playing. The Above Club, 264 Park Avenue, Worcester (508) 752-2211.

Amore Café is building a solid following of people who like to listen to music out the street on warm summer nights, taking advantage of Shrewsbury Street’s latest attraction, under the stars sidewalk dining. On a recent July night, Amore was packed with people listening to a live act. This elegant supper-club-style place is more popular every year, especially on the weekends. The food is very good too. Amore Café, 92 Shrewsbury Street, Worcester. (508) 757-3104.

The Atrium, across town at Exchange Place, is especially popular for live music in the warmer months, featuring cover bands and more (The Atrium now has a roof structure over the courtyard area for winter-viewing too) as well as some theme parties. The Atrium, 1 Exchange Place, Worcester (508) 363-1392

If you follow Route 9 out of Worcester to Westboro, you’ll find Harry’s Too, a good restaurant which offers a full schedule of free live music including such recent acts as the Patrice Williamson Group, Myanna, the Paul Broadnax Trio and The Love Dog Quartet. All shows are from 7 to 10 p.m. Harry’s Too, (508) 898-2200

For good java and live music, the Java Hut on Main Street in Worcester has long been the hang-out of choice, offering a full line of coffee drinks, laid-back atmosphere and all kinds of live performances including music like the Jazz Jam nights with the Jay Tyer Trio and famed poetry readings such as the open poetry mic events with Tony Brown. Java Hut, 1073A Main Street, Worcester (508) 752-1678.

Of course, The Lucky Dog on Green Street is probably Best In Show when you’re talking about live music, whether for listening or dancing to. Long-time residents still talk about The Lucky Dog in the day when it was Sir Morgan’s Cove (decorated with a huge, painted British flag out front). The Rolling Stones (who were making an album at a studio close by) decided on a whim to play there.

Probably no band since has lasted as long as The Stones, but still The Lucky Dog has more live music offerings than any other place in the city. Regular attractions include samba dancing to Brazilian DJs on Sunday nights, Going to Mars every Monday with GIRAFF (Duncan Arsenault, DJ Shame, Buck Paxton, Steve Mossberg and Erik Godin) and on Tuesdays, “Downtown Beirut” with DJ Matthew Griffin and his Gothic Go-Go Dancers the Whores of Babylon.

Featured bands are too numerous to mention but include Mullet Head, Little White Lies, Musclecah, Sheepfish, A Flock of Assholes, Kizmet, the Average White Boys and more. The Lucky Dog, 89 Green Street, Worcester (508) 363-1888

A few blocks up on Main Street, the Palladium pulls in some big-name, live music acts. The Palladium may not be the most relaxing, comfortable place to listen to live music, but still it’s good the area has a venue that attracts talent from beyond West Boylston.

Recent Palladium acts have included Autopilot Off, Sinking Body, Twiztid and David Lee Roth. The Palladium, 261 Main Street, Worcester (508) 797-9696

The Plantation Club on Plantation Street has been supported for a long time by blues lovers who crowd the slightly funky, but comfortable road-house when such long-time big draws as Sleepy Le Bouef pull into town. The Plantation Club, 151 Plantation Street, Worcester (508) 752-4666

Lots of local bands have gotten their start at the Tammany Hall, which is just a hop, but worlds away, from glossy Red 1888 on Pleasant Street. Tammany (which figures prominently in our review of hot local band The Nine on page 6 of this issue) is low-key, easy-going and unaffected, the drinks are cheap, the staff relaxed and there’s lots of room for listening to your favorite local band.

Regular acts at Tammany include Josh Teter and The Late Messengers on Monday nights; “The Price Is Right” open mic with Chris Lepiesza on Tuesday nights and College Night on Wednesdays with DJ Shaman Mike. Tammany Hall, 43 Pleasant Street, Worcester (508) 791-6550

We’ll wrap up the live music list with Zara’s Jazz Club, which has made a lot of area jazz and blues lovers happy by showcasing such beloved acts as the Champola Latin Salsa Band, Little Red Riders with Lydia Fortune, the Lou Terriciano Quartet and The Bluesicians.

Zara’s also has an Open Blues and Jazz Jam every Wednesday night. Zara Jazz Club, 320 Main Street, Worcester, (508) 799-4797.

Finding a good time on a budget

Let’s face it, Worcester isn’t exactly an affluent city. One of the best things about this place is that it doesn’t cost a lot to live or be in school here. We’ve got a whole list of famous diners where you can totally fill up with piles of tasty, but cheap, eats (More on this in the Late Night Eats sidebar). And when it comes to going out on the town with just a few bucks in your pocket, the possibilities are endless in Wormtown.

Of course, college students are expert are finding places where you can have a great time for little money. Which is probably why a lot of the less expensive nightclubs can be found near college campuses, as opposed to more upscale, downtown spots.

So here’s a look at some clubs where you can get a beer for a buck, find free wings, hear music without a cover and dance for free.

One thing about college crowd bars – they either seem to last forever, like Leitrims, or they come and go, like Scarlett O’Hara’s, which became Congo Bongo and is now — BarFly! This new, recreated Main Street spot which is very close to Clark University, may have a brighter future than it’s predecessors, especially if they keep offering tempting specials like dollar shots and 50 cent drafts!

We hear that both Clarkies and Worcester State kids flock to this hip place for big drinks, billiards and good-looking bartenders, which figures with a name like BarFly. BarFly, 912 Main Street, Worcester, (508) 753-7101

Shrewsbury Street is chock-a-block with places where you can eat or drink a lot for not much, from Brew City which has the biggest selections of brews in the area (don’t miss the sample trays on the weekends), small cover and a good selection of reasonably priced food to Bottom’s Up which offers some good drink deals, an outdoor patio, darts, video games and live music on Tuesday nights. Brew City, 104 Shrewsbury Street, Worcester (508) 755-3862; Bottom’s Up, 275 Shrewsbury Street, Worcester (508) 363-3769.

Jeff’s, down the street a bit at 274 Shrewsbury, offers 10 oz. Martinis, cosmos and Stoli Dolis for less than you can get them most other places, a complete line of tropical and frozen drinks, an 8 Þ big screen for sports and late hours (as well as a DJ for dancing from Wednesday through Sunday until 2 a.m. Jeff’s, 274 Shrewsbury Street, Worcester (508) 754-1553.

At Club Marque on Main Street, you can dance, dance, dance on two floors, no matter what your taste – and it’s 18-plus every night, a big draw for the college crowd who can’t get into a lot of other downtown places. College girls will especially like Thursday College Nights, when they can get in free and other attractions are Reggae Sundays, Break Dancing Wednesdays and split floor Friday and Saturdays. Club Marque, 336 Main Street, Worcester (508) 757-7779

Down on Green Street is The Dive Bar, which is famous for it’s cheap drinks, big crowds and late night fights. Lots of people crawl into The Dive after midnight, which has a fitting mural of a shark on it’s outside wall. The Dive Bar, 34 Green Street, Worcester (508) 752-5802

Kurve (formerly Blitz) on Main Street will give you a good time for little cash during Wednesday College Nights (18 plus, with ID), Thursday 19 plus nights and Friday and Saturday, 21 plus nights. Kurve, 281 Main Street, Worcester, (508) 754-8900

The granddaddy of good places to get low-cost drinks in a comfortable, laid-back style is Leitrims on Park Avenue, which has been making life fun for young folk under 30 for decades. Leitrims is always a good place to meet people, the drinks are plentiful, you can dance if you feel like it or just hang out. The cheap beer flows on Thursday College Nights and on Fridays and Saturdays, there is live entertainment. Leitrims, 265 Park Avenue, Worcester (508) 752-0502

Where to go for Late night eats

It’s 2 a.m. and you’re starving.

Where do you go for midnight-and-after munchies? Well, the Worcester area is full of places that stay open either all night or most of it. From the diners, like the Kenmore and the Boulevard, where you can just about anything you’re craving all night long from a burger to eggs over easy to homemade pie, to places like The Flying Rhino on Shrewsbury Street which has completely redesigned their menu to include specials for everyone from carnivores to vegetarians, there’s lots of late night fare out there.

Since we’ve been going alphabetical all the way through, we’ll start with Bahnan’s Bakery & Café, on Water Street in Worcester which has recently introduced a late night menu featuring the Bakery’s delicious homemade bread in sandwiches and goodies galore. Bahnan’s is popular round the clock for breads, pastries, cakes, pies and all kinds of sinful desserts. Bahnan’s Bakery & Café, 106-112 Water Street, Worcester (508) 457-7776

If you’re hungering for delicious pizza in the middle of the night, Blue Jeans Pizza on the Corner of Park Ave. and Pleasant Street serves up all kinds of pizza pies for late night splurges, as well as burgers, pasta, subs and burgers – and 32 flavors of ice cream – until midnight, Sunday through Thursday and until 1 a.m. on the weekends. Blue Jeans Pizza, Park Ave., Worcester (508) 753-3777

The Boulevard Diner on Shrewsbury Street, or “The Bully” as it is affectionately called by long-time Worcesterites, has a complete menu of homemade specials that will keep you rocking all night long like big cheeseburgers and a huge plate of fries, delicious soups and eggs, eggs, eggs. The favorite of many late-nighters is the “Boulevard Special” — a couple of eggs, bacon, sausage, homefries, toast for around $6.00. Of course another attraction of the Boulevard is the atmosphere – this is a honest-to-God diner in a charming old railroad car. The Boulevard, 155 Shrewsbury Street, Worcester (508) 791-4535
Also on Shrewsbury Street is The Flying Rhino, a very popular café that offers delicious eats for lunch, dinner and late night including all kinds of salads, sandwiches, pastas and more that will give you the energy to keep on boogying until the sun comes up. The Rhino has expanded their late night menu to include all kinds of entrees — owner Paul Barber says the restaurant even has late night dishes for vegetarians. Another special feature of this café is the addition of outdoor dining during the warmer months. The Flying Rhino, 278 Shrewsbury Street, Worcester, (508) 757-1450.

Down Route 9 from The Boulevard towards Shrewsbury is an IHOP that is open until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays…if you’re a college student, show your ID and receive a 10% discount anytime on pancakes any way you like ‘em. Sundays through Thursdays, IHOP is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. International House of Pancakes, Route 9, Shrewsbury (508) 791-9328

Another popular diner for late night munchies is the famous Kenmore, located right under Route 290 behind Union Station. The Kenmore, which had to be completely rebuilt after the Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire a few years ago, is open all night long for all kinds of simple, but delectable meals. Breakfast is served round the clock. The Kemore is open from 11 p.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. to 1 p.m. on weekends. The Kenmore Diner, 250 Franklin Street, Worcester (508) 792-5125.
Photos top to bottom:
1. Stock Photo by Dan Vaillancourt, Patrick O’Connor Photography
2. Tia mixes up a martini at Goodfella’s on Shrewsbury St.
3. Beth, Rene & Julie having a good time at Goodfellas.
4. Michelle is all bubbly at Goodfella’s.
5. Twins Lisa and Lori looking twice as nice on Shrewsbury St.
6. Voodoo Screw Machine’s singer Thomas X. Plimpton, center stage at the Lucky Dog
7. At the Lucky Dog: Thermos
8. Shadow Child of Tainted Quill
9. (Left) Carrie and Tammy (Right) Kim Bucciadlia & Kim Sbrogna
10. The Flying Rhino is offering up a new late-night menu.
11. “The Bully” serves breakfast day and night.
12. IHOP on Rte. 9 in Shrewsbury gives discounts to college students… and is open until 3 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays.
13. The Kenmore Diner is open all night long

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07.03 Swimsuits for Summer 2003

From bikinis to surfer shorts, there’s something for every body type

The first day of summer has come and gone and it’s time to take advantage of warmer weather and hit the beach as often as possible, especially since we’ve all just lived through one of the coldest, wettest springs in history. When the hot sun finally shows up, everyone and their mama will pack up the car and head to the beach! Before swarming to department stores to look for a new bathing suit, read on to find out about the hottest styles that are making the biggest splash this summer.

What’s hot for women? How about ordering a sexy swimsuit from a Victoria’s Secret catalog to turn heads while you’re walking down the beach. What’s not? Trying to fit into that two-sizes-too-small suit from last year, or worse, the suit you’ve had since you graduated from high school. What’s hot for men? Hawaiian surfer-print shorts or side stripes with floral accents. What’s not? Gym shorts, bikinis, and anything fluorescent. If there is at least one good reason to buy a new suit this year, whether you’ve been hitting the gym or not, it’s because the styles are designed to complement any figure.

This summer, be comfortable in the skin you’re in. Don’t think that if your shape doesn’t fit the description of the ideal prototype, figuratively speaking, you won’t look good on the beach. Treat yourself to a fun new look! We all come in different shapes and sizes so there are bathing suits for all of us. Finding the style of bathing suit perfect for you will take time, but it’s worth the effort!.

In the past, it’s been hip to think that the more you reveal in a bikini, the better. In 2003, less is definitely more. The proof is in the abundance of halter tops, tankinis, and camikinis being produced for the season, as well as the sustained popularity of the one-piece suit. The major difference between the two-piece tops is that you have to decide how much you want to show or cover up while staying fashionable. If you’re more self-conscious about your bottom half, a pair of cabana pants or a sheer floral sarong can give you the coverage you want, and the comfort to flaunt what you got.

Another reason to hit up department and specialty stores is to get your hands on some of the most innovative designs ever offered in a swimsuit. Geometric designs and the bright montages of paisley and floral prints will blanket beaches from sea to shining sea in colors similar to summer’s vibrantly alive colors. Animal and tribal prints are also heavy hitters along with textured and even crocheted tops. With all the new prints to choose from, you can’t go wrong with stripes, plaids, or solids. Make your swimsuit search all about you and your unique style!

Guys, take time out to pick up something special for this summer’s suit. The variety of swimming trunks allows you to choose from solid styles to Hawaiian-inspired designs in a single side stripe, the front stripe, or just all over. Most of the styles are colored in shades of green and blue. The main emphasis is on comfort. For instance, the “Jamaican Boxer” shorts by Polo Sport, are wide enough to give you enough leg room whether you’re just chilling by the water, hanging out at the snack stand, or kicking back on a boat ride.

Bathing suits are very personal items for just about everyone, so it’s good news that this summer’s styles are as diverse as body types. No matter what your shape, there’s bound to be a bathing suit that will highlight your best assets and dress you up (or down!) for hot fun in the summertime.

cover story

05.03 Outdoor dining. Sunshine or starlight. Great food!

The PULSE picks some outdoor dining spots for hot fun in the summertime!

As summertime slowly approaches, everyone craves warm weather, fresh air, and sunshine. What better way to bask in these glorious gifts from Mother Nature than to have the meal of your choice on the outdoor patio of your favorite local restaurant?

There are lots of outdoor options in Worcester and the choices will increase quite a bit this summer with the addition of several restaurants that have recently chosen to feature outdoor seating. In fact, Shrewsbury Street, home of many of the city’s finest restaurants, is in the process of getting a special ordinance making it possible for the diverse restaurants on the street to offer outdoor dining.

So who knows how many more outdoor cafes will pop up? All of the current locations make great sites for graduation dinners, office gatherings, lunch breaks, first dates, summer parties, bar-hopping with friends, or simple, intimate lunches alone in the sunshine or the starlight. Here’s a rundown of some hot, outdoor dining spots:

Vinny Testas

7 Boston Turnpike, Shrewsbury
(508) 755-0900

Vinny Testas, located right outside of Worcester on Route 9 (Boston Turnpike) in Shrewsbury, is a personal summertime favorite of ours. Outdoor dining just does not get more gorgeous than this restaurant’s spacious deck overlooking picturesque Lake Quinsigamond. What a view! People often expect Vinny Testas to be just another chain restaurant, but they are usually pleasantly surprised. We first visited this place for a small office gathering; all we ordered were a few pina coladas, a couple different varieties of salads, and some appetizers, but this could not have been a more perfect place for good conversation. The deck is the largest of any of the other restaurants listed here, but, even with a big group of people, it never gets too loud or chaotic. If you plan to have a small gathering on the deck, just be aware that the restaurant does not take reservations, and be sure to make it there before September, as the deck closes when it starts to get cold. When you arrive, look for the three Vinny Testas parking lots behind the restaurant: They are very easy to miss, and you do not want to end up trying to park in one of the surrounding side lots, a common mistake. The bar is open until 1:00 am, so you can enjoy your cocktails for as long as you wish.

Cactus Pete’s Steak House

400 Park Avenue, Worcester
(508) 752-3038

Cactus Pete’s is another place we’ve been to many a time for casual work functions such as birthday parties, going away parties, etc. We must admit, we’ve spent most of our time at the bar, but you can enjoy a less rowdy meal outside on the patio. This popular outdoor area typically opens on or around Memorial Day weekend and closes in September. There are eight tables with four seats at each one, and you can reserve the entire deck if you are planning a party of twenty or more people. The patio keeps the same hours as the restaurant’s lounge: Monday through Thursday, 11:30 am to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday, 11:30 am — typically around 12 or 12:30 am, and Sunday 4 pm to 9 pm. The deck has its own full service staff, with special waitresses hired solely to serve the outdoor patrons.

Cactus Pete’s has introduced a new, slightly varied menu, and fruit salad and lighter fare will be featured for the summer months. Typically, cocktails (especially the frozen margarita special!), appetizers and burgers are choice among the patio crowd. This year is Cactus Pete’s tenth anniversary, so you will see price rollbacks, appetizer specials, and other goodies as part of the celebration; the restaurant usually celebrates Cinco de Mayo in the same fashion. Normal prices range from $5.95 to $10.95 for lunch and $8.95 to $21.95 for entrees, although if you feel like splurging, you can always order the prime rib cut at $32.95!


231 Grove Street, Worcester
(508) 755-8047

Tweed’s, located on Grove Street, is your traditional pub restaurant, with good food, good drinks, and a casual atmosphere. The patio at Tweed’s was opened only two years ago and holds about six tables. The menu consists of steak, chicken, seafood, appetizer, and salad entrees, with the average dish priced at about eight dollars. One special feature about this restaurant is that, besides the patio, there is a popular function room, which can be reserved for any kind of party or gathering. Tweed’s is open from 11:30 am to 1:00 am Monday through Saturday and 12 pm to 10 pm on Sunday. To see a full menu, you can visit


157 Shrewsbury Street, Worcester
(508) 754-9709

Primos, a popular Shrewsbury Street Italian restaurant, added outdoor dining last summer after filing the necessary applications, and the idea has certainly proven to be a successful one. There are about six tables set up outside the restaurant, only because regulation forbids loud or large crowds on private walkways. Alcohol is not allowed either, but you can still enjoy the pleasant ambiance of charming café dining on your own or with a friend. Primo’s is a very desirable location for a small graduation dinner, too. Menu choices are creative, eclectic and sure to please customers looking for a reasonably priced meal made with first-rate ingredients. You can bring your own wine and beer for inside dining. This is the perfect spot to bring your family or friends for a little Shrewsbury Street ambiance on graduation weekend. As manager Joe Petrou explains, “People underestimate the amount of business colleges bring in. We love them!”

Nancy Chang

372 Chandler Street, Worcester
(508) 752-8899

Nancy Chang, a large, casually elegant Chinese restaurant, boasts a small patio with at least six tables of four set up annually, weather-permitting. Patrons normally use this relaxing area more for lounging or enjoying cocktails, but food can always be served outside if desired. Functions are often held inside in a special back area that can hold 55 people. This location is rather popular, so start planning your party now in order to make reservations on time. We have been to several small birthday gatherings at Nancy Chang’s, all of which were quite successful. The food was delicious, and the rare fake meat dishes certainly satisfied all of us vegetarians in the group!

Bread and Pasta

421 Shrewsbury Street, Worcester
(508) 756-4366

This is the first summer for Shrewsbury Street’s Bread and Pasta, a local restaurant that was built just last August. Owner John Grosse, formerly of the East Park Grill, is in the process of putting the finishing touches (shrubbery, décor, etc.) on an outdoor dining area. The area will most likely have eight tables, and will open sometime in May, weather permitting. Alcohol will not be allowed outside, but Grosse promises that the patio will be a beautiful place for a meal nonetheless. Bread and Pasta also specializes in catering, and will soon be open for delivery orders. The restaurant will deliver to all of the local college campuses, which is sure to please hungry college students all over Worcester.

Caffé Dolce

154 Shrewsbury Street, Worcester
(508) 754-3761

Caffé Dolce on Shrewsbury Street is, without question, the best place in town to go for coffee and dessert. If you have not been to this exquisite little (but not too little) cafe, you are missing out, so please, for your own good, get your deprived self over there, and soon! The single problem you might encounter is the pressure of choosing from the extensive menu of coffees, cappuccinos, specialty drinks, and cakes. They all just sound too delicious! To make things even more enticing, the popular café now has outdoor seating, with about six tables set up, weather providing. This is a place for anyone and everyone; in other words, you don’t have to be a black turtleneck-wearing wannabe poet coffeehouse nut to dig this joint!

Tatnuck Bookseller Marketplace

335 Chandler Street, Worcester
(508) 756-7644

Pretty much everyone in Worcester has heard of Tatnuck Bookseller, and will agree that it is by far the best bookstore in this city. One of the best things about this marketplace is that you can browse through the bookstore AND enjoy a pleasant meal at the store’s restaurant and outdoor cafe. The indoor eatery occupies a small area in the middle of the store, while the patio out back is an especially nice place to enjoy a quiet meal away from the sounds of traffic and city life. Dinner is served after 5 pm; the menu offers a variety of unique pasta, chicken, steak, seafood, and risotto dishes, all served with generous portions of sides. Or you can just sit and enjoy a nice cup of coffee or tea over the new novel you just purchased. Simpler meal choices include sandwiches, burgers, and my personal Tatnuck favorite: sweet potato fries! For us vegetarians, the restaurant offers a veggie burger as well as a delicious tofu stir-fry. Entrees are typically priced from $10.50 to $15.99.

The Castle

1230 Main Street, Leicester
(508) 892-8000

The Castle, a five-star restaurant located in Worcester’s neighboring town of Leicester, offers a more formal, outdoor dining experience. Just as there’s always a toasty fire burning in the restaurant’s fireplace in the winter, you will find fitting seasonal dining in the summer months, courtesy of a gorgeous patio overlooking Lake Sargent and the restaurant’s own Herb Gardens. The menu, featuring mainly classic Continental dishes, offers lunch and early evening appetizers and cocktails on the patio. The Castle also has an award-winning, internationally recognized wine list!

The Pulse would like to thank: Vinny Testas of Shrewsbury and Derek Grillo of Struck Catering for assistance with the 2003 Outdoor Dining issue.