One lunch hour at Same Old Place, a clumsy guy, who today happens to edit this newspaper, dropped a freshly made Italian sub all over the counter and floor. From his perch behind the cash register, owner Fred Ciampa teased the customer relentlessly about how everyone’s a food critic. Then he offered up another, even better-looking sub on the house and swept up the mess himself.
Fred, who died too young last week, was just like the name he gave his joint—reliable instead of flashy, funny without being silly. He ran on pride, not ego.
His regular-guy approach has made Same Old Place a go-to spot for just about everybody in JP, from youth ball teams to beat cops, old-timers to newcomers, high school kids to seniors. It’s a place where you can watch the guys spin the pizza dough in the air, where the TVs show soap operas during the day and sports at night, where you can sit at a booth and break bread with family and friends without going broke.
JPers love and respect what Fred and his family built. Same Old Place is one of the reasons JP used to fight off multinational chains such as Domino’s. City Feed and Supply a few doors down is there because JPers threatened to picket a fast-food sandwich chain that wanted to open in its spot and compete with Fred.
In return, Fred quietly gave back, including his longtime support of the local police force.
Same Old Place faced other challenges in recent years, especially a horrific triple killing by gang members in 2010. Fred always rolled with the punches and always had the place open the next morning.
Fred was a hard worker who made good, affordable, no-nonsense food for hard workers. He was a family man who ran a great restaurant for families.
Same Old Place is still here, but JP won’t be the same without him.