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Scintas feast on a hometown reception

They've turned up the heat in Las Vegas with their music and comedy for seven years, but the Scintas haven't forgotten their Buffalo roots -- especially the fast food.

After arriving last week to play a five-night gig at the Bear's Den in the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel, they made a beeline for their favorite places -- LaNova, Ted's, Louie's and Anderson's -- to load up on pizza, hot dogs and frozen custard.

In Vegas, "the closest thing to Anderson's is Dairy Queen," sniped Frankie Scinta, who with brother Joe, sister Chrissi and drummer Pete O'Donnell knocked 'em dead for the past five years at the Rio, one of Sin City's glitziest casinos.

That changed Friday, when the group signed with the Las Vegas Hilton.

Judging from the response to the Scintas' return, they still occupy a warm spot in Western New York's heart. All five shows at the 500-room Bear's Den sold out an hour after tickets went on sale in April. Enough people were turned away to have filled the room for five more nights.

"It's great to come back and see that so many people remember you," Frankie said Saturday after they wowed Friday's opening-night crowd. "We were kinda blown away."

"People must've thought they were buying tickets for Billy Joel," Chrissi quipped.

This is the Scintas' 31st year in show business. The brothers started out at the Arches on Elmwood Avenue in Kenmore, where owner Paul Maguire, the former Buffalo Bill and current TV football commentator, paid them $200 a night to develop their singing and comedy skills.

Chrissi, the kid sister with the big voice, performed a song or two during the early sets.

"She was underaged," Joe said.

The group soon moved to the Executive Inn in Cheektowaga, where they packed the Ziegfeld Room and later the Playboy Club off and on for 15 years, showcasing their musical talent with dead-on impressions of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Ray Charles, Tony Bennett, Stevie Wonder and others, as well as their gift for gags with references to the West Side -- they grew up at Auburn Avenue and West Street -- and neighboring Canada.

They left for Vegas in 2000 and soon were headlining shows at the Rio.

"It was unbelievable how everyone accepted us," Frankie said. "The celebrities welcomed us with open arms -- Andy Gans, Wayne Newton, Siegfried and Roy."

The siblings have since been joined by their brother Tony, a retired Buffalo police detective, and their mother, Mary, who landed the role of Grandma Nunzio in the Rio's production of "Tony 'n Tina's Wedding."

After three decades, the Scintas' act has become "much more sophisticated," Frankie said.

The brothers, who started as instrumentalists -- Joe on bass, Frankie on keyboard -- now perform vocals and comedy in front of a band. Chrissi still comes on midway through the set to send the show into overdrive.

"I get almost equal time with the boys, but they're still saving my pipes for me," she said.

The group's basic formula hasn't changed, Frankie said.

"People like off-the-wall entertainment and music that brings back memories," he said.

Don't be surprised if the Scintas soon return for an encore.

"Depending on our contract -- how much time we have off -- we'll be back," Frankie said.

Reconnecting with the local fan base "feels beautiful," he added.


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