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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, Maria C. Palmer and Ruthie Robbins follow the gritty true story of the rise and fall of legendary restauranteur, Joseph Costanzo Jr. in their new book, On The Rocks: The Primadonna Story.

On The Rocks

The intangibles that enabled me to achieve my greatness also contained the seeds to my destruction.

-Joseph Costanzo Jr.

A deeply complex man, the behind-the-scenes true story of the son of Italian immigrants and Pittsburgh area restaurateur Joseph Costanzo, Jr., is a study in contradictions; confident yet unaware; generous yet egotistical; and meticulous yet careless.


At his restaurant, The Primadonna, Costanzo turned McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, from blue collar burb into a sought-out destination for fine Italian dining. Known for its signature Southern Italian dishes that nourished stomachs and souls, The Primadonna’s generous portion sizes were eclipsed only by Costanzo’s larger-than-life personality. In his heyday, Constanzo drew the attention of celebrities, sports icons and well-known journalists — and eventually the federal government.

The moment that you walked in, regardless of how busy we were, my dad was at the front of the house, and he was greeting you. My dad was invested in customers. He wanted to be part of people’s lives. I think that’s what makes this experience so memorable. People loved being special.

-Maria C. Palmer

In her new book, On the Rocks, Palmer and co-writer Ruthie Robbins, who was Palmer’s high school English teacher, take readers into the past, to The Primadonna, where Costanzo treated neighborhood regulars with a similar warmth and friendliness with which he welcomed Danny Aiello, Jamie Lee Curtis and Tommy Lasorda.

Written from Costanzo’s viewpoint, On the Rocks follows his unlikely ascension from a mailman with an impossible dream to proprietor of a nationally acclaimed restaurant. En route, On the Rocks presents quirky characters, engaging stories, heavenly dishes, celebrity sightings, extraordinary memories and enduring friendships.

Costanzo is a classic example of blind ambition, which was both the driving force behind his success, as well as the cause of his own downfall. This story takes readers through the day to day life of Costanzo in the frenzy of a hot-spot restaurant all the way to his life behind bars.

The restaurant was like his third child; it was the son he never had. He was at the top of his game when everything spiraled out of control. That’s what makes this story so rich. He really did the impossible. He took this nothing, failing business and turned it into this diamond in the rough. Then it all got pulled away. Just as fast as it rose, it fell.

-Maria C. Palmer

Maria C. Palmer on The Table Read Magazine
Maria C. Palmer

Maria C. Palmer

Maria Costanzo Palmer is an author and Page Turner Award Finalist for her co-created book, On the Rocks. She is regular co-moderator for the Food Is Religion Club on Clubhouse and a previous host on L.A. Talk Radio. Recently, Maria was featured on Food and Beverage Magazine Live, a nationally syndicated podcast, as well as iHeartRadio. Her writing has been distributed in OC87 Recovery Diaries, and she has made various media appearances.

Palmer was the oldest child of an award-winning restaurateur until she unexpectedly became a prisoner’s daughter. This experience lighted an interest in working for Get on the Bus, a not-for-profit devoted to uniting kids with their detained parents.

Ruthie Robbins on The Table Read Magazine
Ruthie Robbins

Ruthie Robbins

Ruthie Robbins is an award winning teacher who worked for the Montour School District in Pittsburgh and for Johns Hopkins Talent Development Secondary. Robbins currently teaches English and Language Arts in Buffalo, New York. Notable as co-creator of a famous amusement park interdisciplinary unit, she is right now working on different books and is launching The Writing Factory Online, an extensive online writing program for middle schools.

Find more now:

Kindle: https://amzn.to/3sZVBnZ

Paperback: https://amzn.to/3EI0BAg

www.mariacpalmer.com or www.ruthierobbins.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/joecostanzoprimadonna

Instagram: www.instagram.com/joecostanzoprimadonna

Twitter: www.twitter.com/mariacpalmer;

Clubhouse: @maria.palmer

LinkedIn: Maria Costanzo Palmer and Ruthie Robbins


On the Rocks

Publisher: Koehler Books

Release Date: August 8, 2023

ISBN-13: ‎979-8-88824-027-4 (soft cover)

ISBN-13: 979-8-88824-029-8 (hard cover)

ISBN-13: 979-8-88824-028-1 (e-book)

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