EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 26, 2008

Breakfast menu: home fries and home runs

By Bill Burt

METHUEN — Mike Solomon of Methuen got a little extra spice with his two scrambled eggs, home fries, wheat toast and coffee early yesterday morning at Al's Family Diner in Methuen.

A front row seat to the Red Sox.

Solomon and about 100 customers were up and at 'em early yesterday eating their breakfast while taking in the Red Sox opener against the Oakland Athletics from Tokyo, Japan.

The game started at 6 a.m. and the last pitch wasn't thrown until nearly 9:50 a.m.

"I woke up and put the game on TV while I was getting ready," said Solomon, who owns a vending company. "My wife (Kathy) said, 'Why do you have the TV on?' I told her, 'It's the Sox opener.' "

He caught two innings at home before making the trek to Al's, where he sat 15 feet away from the TV.

"It was a perfect seat," he said. "It feels a little weird watching a game this early the morning. But I love the Sox. I'll watch them whenever they are on. I have to leave here and go do some work. I listen to the rest of the game on the radio."

Owner Al Silva had planned for yesterday (and today, another 6 a.m. start) for a few weeks. He was going to open about 30 minutes earlier (it is open 6:30 a.m. every day) with two TVs set up.

At about 6 a.m. he went outside to put up the American flag, letting people know it was open. When he tried to get back in, he realized he locked the door.

"I basically watched the first inning, alone in the hallway. I was not happy," said Silva. "Then the guy next door (in the auto dealership) brought over a crow bar and we broke open the lock."

Six people — Jim Maranto and Marie Leone of Salem, N.H., and Tony and Josephine Carelli, Ray Otis and Mary Jane Beaulieu all of Methuen — who eat here every weekday but Wednesdays got a table in front of the big TV to the right of the breakfast bar.

The six former Raytheon employees didn't realize the Red Sox were on until they got there.

"It was a nice surprise," said Josephine Carelli. "We usually talk a lot more. But it seemed like all we did was watch the game. It was fun."

By the time the game entered extra innings, a new group of customers were eating and watching.

When Manny Ramirez belted the two-run double, to put the Red Sox ahead 6-4, everyone in the restaurant cheered as if it was a World Series game.

"We come here almost every day but we stayed a little later than usual and luckily they look like they're going to win," said George Simonian, who lives near the Whirlaway Running and Golf Center facility, which is home to the diner.

"My only problem was the guy in the white sweater at the counter," Simonian said, referring to the reporter. "You were in my way!"

Waitress Shannon Sammataro of Methuen was among those joining in the opening day excitement.

She normally sports a Harley Davidson hat to work with a ponytail coming out the back.

Because of yesterday's special day, the Red Sox opener, she wore her pink Red Sox cap, the same cap she wore when the Red Sox clinched the World Series in Colorado.

"My husband (Derek) and I got to a few games every year," she said. "We're big fans."

The Red Sox eventually won, holding on for a 6-5 win.

The diner is open for business again today for Game 2, same time, same place.

"This time," said Sammataro, "I will wear my blue (Red Sox) cap. That's a lucky one, too."

You can e-mail Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.