Brooklyn Boro

It’s a dinner worth repeating from Ben Cardinale

September 20, 2021 Andy Furman
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The brick was misplaced, but well-deserved at the time.

Ben Cardinale won the Wingate Award back in 1961 as a Lafayette High School senior.

“It typifies scholarship, character and sports,” he said. “Don’t hold me to it, but I think it’s a PSAL citywide award.”

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He was a basketball letter-winner playing for then-Lafayette coach Frank Rabinowitz.

The Wingate Award winner was rewarded with his name on a brick, which is embedded on the walls of the gymnasium in Lafayette High School.

Today, they should move that brick to the library, because at the age of 45, Ben Cardinale turned his fortunes to writing.

Specifically, comedy writing.

“I became a comedy writer for TV shows “Family Ties” and “Brooklyn Bridge,” he said. 

And there was a Lafayette basketball connection with that as well.

Gary David Goldberg, a former Lafayette performer, created the “Brooklyn Bridge” series. Goldberg and Cardinale were best friends.

“I’d go over Gary’s house,” Cardinale said, “and his mom would jokingly say, ‘Gary, your girlfriend is here.’”

Cardinale lived at 72nd Street and 21st Avenue, and Goldberg was at 67th.

It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that lasted a lifetime – but more importantly, it was how Brooklyn was back in the early ’60s and late ’50s.

“We grew up with three distinct generations,” Cardinale said. “Firstly, Jewish grandparents from Europe and Syria and Italian grandparents from Sicily. Secondly,” he adds, “our parents who were born here, becoming Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation.

“And third,” he said, “us, the Silent Generation.”

And. Cardinale says, each generation brought its values and conversation to a dinner table where they ate mouthwatering, ethnic food cooked by their mothers and grandmothers.

“We process our lives,” Cardinale said, “through our digestive system.”

So, at the age of 76, Ben Cardinale the transplanted Brooklyn TV writer now living in San Antonio, Texas decided to write “Sunday Dinner,” his first novel.

A true novel of the life and times of Brooklyn in the late ’50s to early ’60s. 

“It truly was a simpler time,” he said. “Nobody locked their doors; your sister could come home late at night and not worry about her safety.”

Cardinale says he was fussing with the idea for the book for quite some time. “I had a lot of free time during the pandemic and got it done.”

Plans are in the works for a theater version of “Sunday Dinner,” he said. 

He says the feedback has been tremendous. “Not only from Brooklyn people; and if you’re not from Brooklyn,” he said, “it takes you there.”

“Sunday Dinner” talks about kids surviving by being with groups of friends for support and protection.

Stickball, triangle, stoopball, jacks, hopscotch was how kids passed the time – there was no social media to divert one’s attention.

There was no wealth divide. Everyone went to the same public schools.

Nobody thought they were better than anyone else.

There was a respect for authority — parents, religious leaders, teachers, coaches and even cops.

“Even if they didn’t deserve it,” Cardinale said.

Maybe “Sunday Dinner” is a mirror of the young Ben Cardinale – a story of a young boy coming of age in a Jewish/Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn.

And even meeting his first love – Becky Fishbein.


“But Becky was the Jewish girlfriend I never really had,” Cardinale joked.

 If the Wingate Medal can’t be moved to the library – at least a copy of “Sunday Dinner” should be added to the bookshelves.

Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle. He may be reached at: [email protected] Twitter: @AndyFurmanFSR

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  1. Ken Gershon

    So glad to read your article about Ben. I read the book and it is wonderful. Benny Pete Shneider and I were extremely close in Lafayette. We played on the basketball team and really spent a lot of time together. To this day it is a friendship that I will always treasure and will never forget how close we all were. Lafayette was truely the best of times. Ken Gershon