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~ Malden Musings ~ Farewell, Big A’s Nick Kombouras

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By Peter Levine


Nick Kombouras has left the building. The Big A is no longer led into daily battle by the great, “Nick the Greek.” Long live the Big A and Nick the Greek! Congrats to (former) Big A owner Nick Kombouras on his well-deserved and hard-earned retirement! Nick was the face of the Big A for all these years! The Big A making the Malden community happy for the past 45 years with fabulous submarine sandwiches and quick, efficient service (think the old SNL skit “Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger”). We’re gonna miss your world-famous chicken parm and steak bombs, but from what I’ve heard, those acclaimed delicacies ain’t going anywhere! Just you are (we’ll miss you, Nick, but as long as the chicken parm stays, well, it’s all good – insert smiley face).

I personally remember the day you took over ownership way back when. The food was good from Day 1 and the service quick (if not always with a smile). But he did have a most difficult time in those early years trying to establish himself in the neighborhood and persuade the Connah Gang to stop messing with his customers (and to move away from his front door). Well, Nick outlasted each and every generation of Connah rat that came along, going the distance, finally calling it quits on his own terms. A beloved figure in Edgeworth history, the Big A (and Nick) became Edgeworth institutions. We’ll miss you, big guy, but as long as there is a Big A, you’ll be remembered (and we’ll be happy).

Here is a Big A tale from yesteryear from local raconteur, Pearl Street icon and Mary’s baby brother; James “Jimmy Moe” Molinari: “I’ll start with how I became overnight friends with Nick…from bitter enemies to besties, lol

“Nick would yell at us to get away from the corner. It was mid-winter and we assumed he was calling the cops to kick us off the corner. So, one of us would hold open the door and a few of us would whip snowballs inside the Big A at Nick! We got a really big kick out of that (yeah, I know, but we were young and foolish – not necessarily in that order). That night we rolled up a snowball at least 7 feet in diameter, wedged it into the Big A door which completely covered the entrance. LOL! We were 13, maybe, so please forgive. Nick did not appreciate this.

“Next day my mom is going to bingo at Girl’s Catholic and says to me, ‘walk me to bingo, we’ll get sandwiches at the Big A first.’ This had never happened. I’ve walked ma to bingo millions of times but never has she said, ‘let’s eat at the sub shop.’
“So, I’m now inside the Big A and I’m banned but I can’t tell ma that I’m not allowed inside the premises (see, to ma, I was her little angel). Nick comes over to the table (I’m looking at him like, don’t you dare!) then this happened:

“Nick: ‘Hi, I’m Nick the owner, this is your son, Jimmy?’
“Ma: ‘Yes.’

“Nick: ‘Oh, he’s a good kid.’

“Ma glowing says, ‘thank you.’

“Thank God he went that route because anything else would have resulted in an intergenerational feud. After that nobody bothered Nick, I made sure of it. Laugh out loud.”

It is said in “Malden Musings”…

  • Congratulations to Steve Winslow for being named Council President for 2024. Anybody who name checks Rick Barry & Willie Mays as role models growing up is okay in my book.
  • Congratulations to one of Malden’s best friends, Bob Rotondi, for being the very first inductee into Malden’s Baseball Legacy Hall of Fame. The induction will happen on March 7 at the Moose and is sure to be a SRO affair.
  • So much to catch up on…congratulations to former Charles Street boy Danny O’Boyle (Class of 1977) on his induction into the Malden High School Sports Hall of Fame. I watched Danny and his four brothers (Brian, Johnny, Paul and Frankie), nicknamed (by me) “The Five Fighting O’Boyle Brothers,” grow up a few doors down from me in Edgeworth. Danny and his siblings were all outstanding athletes back in the day and could be spotted throughout the neighborhood at all hours of the day (and night) playing sports or getting into mischief. Fine boys from a great family.
  • Also, congrats to the 2012 MHS Girls’ Softball Team on their induction. The team photo taken that night at Anthony’s is priceless!
  • Condolences to the Truesdale family on the passing of the patriarch of the family, Fred. Born in Somerville, Fred worked for the City of Malden in the Parking Department for the past 16 years and was a 35-year member of the Teamsters Union Local 25, where he worked for U.S. Foods as a receiver. Fred was a good guy – a family man who, for the past six years, I was privileged to call friend.
  • Fred’s son Eric is a proud member of the Malden Fire Department.
  • Happy 72nd birthday to Bull’s little brother William (Billy) “Tecka” O’Leary. Ya, he knows he doesn’t look 72; he says it was all the clean living he’s done over the years. Next Buds on me, Tecka!
  • Still shaking my head (myself and many other Maldonians) about how good Freck’s tribute to the late Ernie Ardolino was. He threw the perfect spiral with his closing remark: “So, whenever you recall Ernie A. Ardolino Sr. – Mr. A, Coach Ardolino, just plain Ernie – think good thoughts, think happy thoughts, and remember that beaming, genuine smile he always wore. That is exactly how he would want it.” Beautiful, Steve.
  • Not sure how on earth this escaped my line of vision…congratulations to Tommy, Rob and Joey Dennehy’s mom Celia on her 100th trip around the sun! Last July it looked like everybody in Malden (except me!) showed up at Celia’s home (the same home she has resided in for the past 80 years) on Malden Street to wish her a happy birthday! Better late than never – happy birthday, Celia, and many more! Tommy! You better let me know when Celia celebrates 101!
  • I took lunch at Cornucopia Foods in beautiful downtown Malden Square last week. Neil Sullivan aka “Handsome Neil” (as his close friends call him) was behind the curtain preparing all kinds of goodies for the hungry, unwashed masses that enter the front door (which once was the front door of Louie Klane’s Shoe Store). One of those famous Neil Sullivan hot dogs with some home fries and I said to myself, fuhgeddaboudit!! Darn good choice, Pistol! Thank you, Neil, your place is a treasure in case you didn’t realize it. And you are too, friend.

As Peter Falk’s iconic TV character Columbo would say, “Just one more thing, sir” – growing up in Edgeworth by Jimmy Walker:

“Just some quick random Edgeworth thoughts and memories.

“Chestnut fights, fruit trees and vegetable gardens in most backyards (sometimes good for the taking if you could outrun the dogs) but most folks would give them to you if you asked. Stickball at Emerson or Immaculate, street hockey everywhere (that damn orange ball), pick up baseball at Devir, tackle football without pads, Peter Levine riding his bike all over Edgeworth with his long hair and Celtics tank top. Delivering papers to Bobby Barry house right after a snowstorm, knowing I was going to get pelted good with snowballs, but I had a job to do, lol.

“Going to visit my grandmother Connie in the kitchen at Forgione’s (after getting pelted by snowballs) for a hot meatball and a piece of bread while my aunt Rose tells my grandmother she’s giving away the profits for the day, lol.

“Growing up next door to Mike’s Cafe and learning what excessive alcohol consumption is all about at 7 years old from my bedroom window at 2 am.

“Working at Skip’s Auto on the corner of Highland and Medford with Paul Trulli and Art Rogers, they taught this 14-year-old a lot about cars and life….and hockey.

“Growing up in Edgeworth with some of the best people that I still call friends today. A privilege to know most of you folks. Thank you for a great childhood and many awesome memories.”
Postscript: In the photo, at City Hall on Pleasant Street, happily pictured side by side are recently retired Big A owner Nick “Steak Bomb” Kombouras and Mayor Gary “The Bomb” Christenson right after Mayor Gary handed Nick a sheet of paper thanking him for his many years making Malden a happy place. Good to see the two pictured together smiling. I recall back in the day driving by the Big A, in the front window spying a sign hanging prominently supporting the mayor’s opponent that year and saying to myself, Nick, Nick, Nick, you’re backing the wrong mayoral candidate this race (Gary won – again – btw). Insert great big smiley face.

—Peter is lifelong Malden and a regular contributor to the Malden Advocate. He can be reached at PeteL39@aol.com for comments, compliments or criticisms.

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