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Irish Accordion Player Delights Diners at Italian Restaurant

By Justin Breen | April 11, 2014 6:37am
 Tommy Moran has been performing at La Villa Restaurant in Irving Park for the last 5-1/2 years.
Tommy Moran
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IRVING PARK — Tommy Moran has two loves in his life: Music and his six children, in that order.

"The first thing I love is music because that's the first thing I ever loved," Moran said. "Obviously I love my kids more than anything, but the music came first."

Moran, 54, of Jefferson Park, has been playing instruments since picking up an accordion as an 8-year-old. He then learned the keyboard, bass and bagpipes.

And he has orchestrated all four for the last 5-1/2 years during his one-man show every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at La Villa Restaurant in Irving Park. During his four-hour-plus performances, Moran sings tunes like "Sweet Caroline" in his baritone voice deepened by 36 years of smoking Parliament cigarettes and mixes in a few one-liners as well.

 Tommy Moran has been performing at La Villa Restaurant in Irving Park for the last 5-1/2 years. Here is some of his sheet music.
Tommy Moran has been performing at La Villa Restaurant in Irving Park for the last 5-1/2 years. Here is some of his sheet music.
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DNAinfo/Justin Breen

"Tommy is his own musical style," said Avondale's Gwen Hayes, who has been a hostess and manager at La Villa, 3632 N. Pulaski Road, for 14 years. "You can't imitate Tommy. He gets everybody involved."

Listen to Justin Breen talk about Tommy Moran on DNAinfo Radio:

Moran is 100 percent Irish, but he might as well be Italian. His real middle name is Valentine. His favorite dish is chicken Vesuvio, and he craves pizza. For the last 30 years, he has owned Midnight Meat, a business where he delivers meats to several restaurants, including many Italian ones.

"Been around Italians all my life," Moran said.

He has always been around music as well. His father, Joseph, was a tenor, and his mother, Mary, played the violin.

Moran and his six siblings — brothers Joe, Brendan and Kieran and sisters Breda, Mary and Kerry — formed the Moran Family Band, which featured drums, bagpipes, accordion, bass, piano, harp, clarinet, guitar, vocals and Irish step dancing. From 1976-84, they practiced together 40 hours a week and booked 60 weddings a year.

After the group broke up, Moran went out on his own, lugging his keyboard, accordion, speakers, microphones and other equipment to various engagements. In September 2008, he appeared at the 65th birthday of the cousin of La Villa owners Christina and Sam Petrancosta. Christina's father, La Villa founder Salvatore Canale, also was in attendance, heard Moran and said the restaurant needed to hire him immediately.

The families knew him anyway since he had for years sold them beef tips for high-end dishes.

Moran was supposed to work only one night a week at La Villa, replacing DJs and other previous entertainers, but by the end of his first month, he was slotted into the Thursday-through-Saturday routine.

"It took me a matter of seconds, and I loved him," said Christina Petrancosta, whose restaurant has been open since 1972. "I thought he was just a fun-loving guy, and this is what La Villa is all about, having family, fun and enjoying an evening out."

Moran has been a constant in his small corner near the restaurant's bar since. He said it's a treat knowing he doesn't have to move his gear.

And it's been even better seeing the same customers over and over again.

"I just love people. I love to see them happy," Moran said. "There's a million singers out there, a million musicians, but there's only a handful of entertainers."