By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
"You gotta make the people want to come," Supino says. "It's gotta hit their eye when they walk in -- like it's warm. I want to make it like a little cottage," she explains and points to the side of the room. "This is going to have wallpaper."
Supino breaks out a stack of photos she's taken of her own home's kitchen to show what she has in mind: fabric blinds, stenciled flowers on cabinets, ginger jars, and candlesticks. "It came out bee-yooohhh-ti-ful," she says. Even though she came to Florida 11 years ago, when she speaks, there's still a trace of New England in her voice, and she drawls out a random vowel every now and then. "I still miss the snow, saying, "Whoever gets home first starts the fireplace.' I miss that."
Supino waitressed for four decades in Rhode Island, New York, and Las Vegas, but she didn't start cooking until she hit her forties and felt the urge to feed her second husband. "He was Italian. I didn't know how to cook," she says with a shrug of her shoulders, "So I went to Johnson & Wales [University]." She picks up a sponge and wipes down the already spotless counter. "We had a class on what to do with leftovers," she says on her way to the back kitchen. "Because this place is so small, you've got to use what you've got. You've got to use your imagination."
Today Supino's flair with food led her to dice up leftover carrots and spinach, then bake a quiche in one of her high-tech blue baking pans. "I bring my own," she says and points to her final product: a confection of yellow fluff she's set out to cool. She'll bring it out to the lounge for snacking before she leaves at 1 p.m. During her current Monday-through-Thursday workweek, she always makes Tremblay his breakfast and his lunch.
"I'm a waitress, a cashier; I cook, I clean," Supino says. "I could make so much more money somewhere else, but because of him, I stay. I've seen Steve lend money to people that needed it. I tell him, "Steve, they're using you.' He says, "If they use me, they use me.' He's the nicest guy. The best boss."
She opens the freezer to figure out what she'll need to buy at Publix tomorrow morning. She plans her menu from day to day. All of the chow goes straight to the lounge. Shepherd's pie, barbecued wings, spaghetti and meatballs, stuffed shells. "I'll make a nice antipasto. They love it, but they're drunk anyhow," she says laughing. "Any food, they'll eat!"
Sometimes she whips up a batch of fresh soup and leaves a bowl at the front desk for the clerk. She brought a helping to Burke's room after his accident. "You get to know the people who stay here," she says. "They're like family."
When two children flutter through the gate and plunge feet-first into the pool, a guest tanning on one of the peach-and-aqua lounge chairs might feel he's poolside at a posh resort. Two speakers mounted on the motel's trellis add to the effect, pumping out oldies from a gentler era: "Sugar, Sugar," "All Shook Up," "Doo Wah Diddy."
By late afternoon the poolside patio is deserted. In a couple months, French-Canadians will tromp down in droves, check in, and worship the sun. They'll play cards at umbrella-covered tables, perhaps barbecue beneath the palms. But for now there's not an oiled paunch or Speedo in sight. Church bells clang from across the street.
Five middle-aged men have already gathered around the Entrada's U-shape bar for their after-work round. One brings his own ceramic stein; another feels comfortable enough to reach behind the bar, grab the Coke nozzle, and freshen his drink. The jukebox glows in the corner. So does the underlit center of the bar, and the men hunch around it as if it were a campfire, drawing warmth from bottles of Midori Melon liqueur, Goldschlagger, Johnny Walker Black.
Outside the open French doors, a ponytailed man grills burgers and dogs. Baked beans and tossed salad sit in a Tupperware bowl on a table. One by one each patron saunters outside to fill his paper plate. No one eats at the tables by the grill. They prefer the dimness of the bar.
Late afternoon folds into evening, and the lounge shifts into third gear. The grill vanishes with the after-work crowd, replaced by regulars pounding beers. Most-ordered brew at the Entrada lounge: Bud. Favorite hard liquor: vodka. Most-popular mixed drink: rum and Coke. By nine o'clock, the dozen people gathered around the bar are drinking all three. The lounge is jumping.
Hey Donna, slow today?
Hey Donna, did they call you to testify at Dale's trial?
Tonight's bartender, Donna Parra, glides over to her latest customer. She's wearing matching white shirt and hot pants, tan pantyhose, and platform Mary Janes on her feet. She takes the bill offered to her with one red-nailed hand and offers a longneck with the other. "I told them I'd be in the south of France," she deadpans in a throaty growl. Laughter. Swigs.