Tobin and Renaud have been performing at Amore for the past two years. With the restaurant closing, the two look ahead to their flip sides.
It’s a Friday night, and Amore Restaurant is bustling.
Over the clank and clatter of plates and silverware, a cackle of laughter erupts. It’s Eddie Tobin mingling with various customers. A few minutes later, another round of laughter erupts. This time it’s Judy Renaud chatting with patrons.
Their banter with regulars is a testament to the legacy they will leave when Amore closes in late May. Tobin and Renaud have been performing at the popular restaurant for the past two years.
As they perform — Tobin sings and plays piano, and Renaud jumps in on vocals — some couples get up and dance. Others listen in awe as Renaud’s voice smoothes over the hustle and bustle of the restaurant. And, when Tobin performs “Sweet Caroline,” the whole room joins in, seemingly forgetting that they are dining at an Italian restaurant.
Amore owner Howard Rooks, who is hoping to relocate the restaurant to downtown Sarasota, called Renaud’s voice fine and said Tobin was a prize. The two have helped Amore expand beyond an eatery.
“It’s become more than a restaurant,” Rooks said. “It’s just a nice gathering place for people where they can connect with their friends.”
Renaud got her start singing jazz as a child in church and in school plays, but it wasn’t until she raised her family that it really took off. She took her first singing lesson when she was 50.
“I’m a club singer basically, and I love it,” Renaud said.
When Tobin was 5, his uncle gave him an accordion, and though he just played it for fun, it showed he did have some musical talent. After studying music at the University of Miami, Tobin traveled around the country playing with various artists.
“When I sit at the piano, if I have a headache or I’m tired, as soon as I sit down, everything feels good,” Tobin said.
Last February, the two paired up to record at Sarasota’s Spirit Ranch Recording Studio. Their second album, “Something Cool,” was released March 24.
Tobin calls Renaud the catalyst of that project. Renaud calls Tobin one of the best, if not the best, piano players she’s worked with. For her, the CDs represent her legacy. All the songs on both CDs are covers except for two that Renaud wrote herself — “When Love Came Around the Corner” is on the first album and “Sand and the Sea” is on the latest album.
With Amore closing in May, the two will have some weeknights to fill. As for their next steps, the two have different plans. Renaud plans to take a step back and have some time off until fall, though she plans to continue performing regularly at Euphemia Haye. She’s looking forward to “spreading her wings” to write more songs and improve on the piano.
Tobin, who also plays regularly at Euphemia Haye and The Terrace At Surf Shack on St. Armands, isn’t worried about filling his time with performances to replace his ones at Amore. In his words, he’ll cross that bridge when he gets there.
Both, however, are sad to see Amore go.
“I am so sad because it’s been there in so many incarnations for so long, from The Plaza to Mattison’s Steakhouse,” she said. “I just love the building. I love performing there.”