Straight Up: Zucchini's customers make the job fun for bartender Debs Sica D'Amico

'I love working with people'

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PITTSFIELD — Talking to people comes natural to Deborah "Debs" Sica D'Amico, which is the reason she enjoys bartending so much.

"I love bartending. I love people. I love working with people," said D'Amico, who is known to her customers as Debs, during a recent interview at Zucchini's Restaurant, where she's tended bar since Lynne and Michael Soldato opened the doors in 2003. "I've always like being around people, it's fun. You meet some amazing people. It makes your job fun, it makes you want to go to work. Some days, it's almost like you're a doctor or a psychiatrist for people. You feel like you're helping people out. You hear the good stories, the bad stories. Some people are just amazing and have such an impact on your life."

Her customers, she said, usually talk to her about their pets and children — mostly about their families; not about their relationships. And she's OK with that. She'd rather have them ask her about her dogs, than have them ask for relationship advice.

Her love of working with people, especially in retail settings, D'Amico says, was fostered by her father, John Sica, who owned and ran a cigar/cigarette shop in Manhattan.

"It was on 42nd Street and Broadway, years ago, in Times Square. It was the first store to get the lottery machine. It was a gold mine," she said. "So, I was always into retail because he was. Then, the city changed and the area it was in started to get bad, so he got out [of the business]."

D'Amico's retail experience wasn't in Manhattan, but on Long Island, where she ran a children's clothing store, in New Hyde Park, N.Y., for seven years.

"I always worked in clothing. Then, I lost one of my jobs; it closed down. Someone suggested I take up bartending. I went to work for a Thai restaurant, where the owner taught me how to tend bar. I worked for him for three years," she said, noting she worked another four years as a bartender before heading north. "I worked for a quite a few restaurants on Long Island."

It's been 24 years since D'Amico arrived in the Berkshires — originally settling in just over the New York border, in Stephentown, N.Y., where her family owned land — but she still hasn't lost her Long Island-accent, which is most prevalent when she's greeting customers.

But, the most consistent thing about D'Amico, according to Lynne Soldato, is that she's always 10 minutes late.

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"I just can't get here on time," D'Amico said, laughing. "I try, I really do. I've worked for [Lynne] for 23 years, between [Zucchini's] and seven years at Pasta's [Woodfired Pizza in Lanesborough]. Even when I lived across the street, I was late. There's only one time that I made it to work on time and they made a plaque for me."

BARKEEP!

Q. What's your favorite drink to make?

A. It's "Debs' Sugar Lips." It's made with Absolute Grapefruit, triple sec, lime juice, cranberry juice and has a sugar rim and a lemon wedge on the side.

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Q. What's your least favorite drink to make?

A. Frozen drinks, because it's a little more time consuming, especially when you're busy. If you have to make a mudslide, then a pina colada and then a strawberry daiquiri, you constantly have to rinse out the blender. If I could make four pina coladas at the same time, but if you're doing all different ones, you really need more than one blender.

Q. What's in your fridge at home?

A. Beer. I love wheat beers. I have to drink something not so heavy, like Budweiser or Corona.

Q. What do people come in here and talk to you about?

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A. Probably their pets and their kids and families, not too much about their relationships. They always ask me about my dogs.

Q. What do you do when someone comes in and says, "just make me something"?

A. I usually ask them if they want something sweet or something sour. If they say sweet, then I usually try to make them a Bacardi Beach Body; it's got rum, pineapple, cranberry — it's fruity. If they say sour, something like a whiskey sour is good.

Q. What are some of the common mistakes people make when ordering a drink?

A. They ask for a martini, extra, extra dry. What they should ask for is a martini with no vermouth.

Q. When you're off the clock, what do you do?

A. I'm usually home with my dogs. (She has two rescue dogs, both pit bulls, Sophie and Pearl, and two cats, four chickens and a rooster.) I go shopping and meet friends out for drinks or for lunch. I try to get down to New York when I can.

Q. What are some of your favorite bars in the area?

A. I like Brookhaus Sports Pub, the Hot Dog Ranch and PortSmitt's Lakeway Restaurant.


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