In concert at the historic Teatro Marcellus in Rome: Sima performs this August

Scottsdale business co-owner Sima Verzino will perform in Rome this summer. (Submitted photo)

She’s a highly-trained vocalist who started her career in New York City before becoming a top recording artist in Europe.

She’s performed many times on national RAI TV in Italy, and her records were played in heavy rotation on major radio stations throughout Europe.

Now, Sima Verzino, whose stage name is “Sima,” is preparing to sing for the first time in the ancient Teatro Marcellus on Aug. 29 in Rome, an opportunity she calls “the honor of a lifetime.”

The ancient, open-air theater is more than 6,000 miles away from where Sima performs on Thursday nights at Marcellino Ristorante, an award-winning, Italian fine dining restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale.

Sima and her renowned husband, Chef Marcellino Verzino, have owned the restaurant for 15 years.

On Thursday nights, the restaurant’s vibe is soulful as Sima and her All Star Trio band perform a diverse selection of jazz and R&B songs. And sometimes, when Sima performs Do You Want to Dance?, Chef Marcellino will emerge from the kitchen and join her on the dance floor.

It has been their love song she dedicated to him 25 years ago and still is going strong.

But most guests watching Sima perform at the restaurant don’t realize she is an owner, which is fine with her.

“Who I am encompasses two careers, and that’s why this invitation to perform in Rome is so meaningful to me,” Sima said in a prepared statement. “My true essence is and has always been as a professional performer. I was born into the music profession and had inherited my dear father’s music genes.”

Marcellino Ristorante interior (File photo)

Finding her voice again

Several years ago, Sima could not imagine receiving an invitation to perform at the historic and prestigious Teatro Marcellus, according to a press release.

“Chef and I were devoted to the restaurant, and I didn’t have time for my music,” she said, adding that her hiatus lasted more than 10 years. “There was a huge void, and the more time that went by where I didn’t sing, the worse I felt.”

She credits international Brazilian jazz artist Jim Porto with reigniting her passion to sing.

“Jim is like a brother to me. We had shared the same record label in Rome many years prior, and Chef and I invited him to the United States to perform two special shows at our restaurant and at the Italian Festival here in Scottsdale,” Sima said.

“During both shows, he invited me to perform a duet with him. That was all the push I needed to rebirth my love of singing. Both Chef Marcellino and Jim had been pushing me to start singing again, and it was such a magical evening, I knew I had to pursue singing professionally again.”

It was a scary endeavor, even though she knew she could rely on decades of experience. On paper, one might think she had nothing to worry about. She was a “figlia d’arte,” an old Italian expression for a daughter of art who was born into an artistically talented family, and she had been performing since she was seven years old.

“My father was a classically trained vocalist, saxophonist, clarinetist, and arranger who conducted his own orchestra at many venues and “Jet Set” social events in New York City and Washington, D.C.,” Sima said. “My parents started me with classical dance lessons at age three and piano lessons at age six. At 14, I auditioned for and was accepted into the famous Fiorella LaGuardia ‘School for the Performing Arts’ on West 46th Street in New York City, where I majored in drama and minored in dance.”

She went on to college at the Fashion Institute of Technology, where she studied marketing, public relations, and journalism, but after graduation, she went back to music; the stage was calling her.

She credits two of New York’s top vocal coaches, Marty Lawrence and John DeMaio, with changing her life, the press release stated.

“I had to audition for these brilliant coaches as they handpicked their students,” she said. “Marty had trained Liza Minnelli and other stars, and John counted the famous operatic soprano Beverly Sills among his talented clients. They gave me an understanding of the instrument inside me. With their training, my voice blossomed and put me on the very top of my game. It enabled incredible and all-powerful control of my voice to perform with perfection and vocal gymnastics that makes me who I am.”

Back in the spotlight

Sima’s hiatus from singing ended after she performed with Jim Porto that evening at Marcellino Ristorante.

Fueled by her desire to return to performing professionally, she began calling local musicians to put her All Star Trio band together. Their first performance in the restaurant was in 2015, and the band has been together ever since.

“My voice had matured greatly, and time was all that was needed to redefine myself. With the love, support and dedication of my dear musicians, I became victorious beyond my imagination,” she said.

Preparing for her upcoming Rome concert is no easy task. Her musical conductor and keyboardist, Mark DeCozio, who most recently is collaborating with George Benson, is writing her arrangements.

She’ll rent studio space in Rome a few days prior to rehearse with a trio of professional Italian musicians. And because she will be performing among ruins that date back to 13 BC, she’ll perform a repertoire of “music of the masters.”

“I’ll be singing several ballads and torch songs that reveal the essence of my soul and richness of my voice,” she said, adding that Jim Porto will be a featured guest for a duet. “It’s going to be an incredible evening — one that I will never forget. And of course, Chef Marcellino, friends and family members will be in the audience. I am truly blessed!”

Sima’s concert is part of a summer “Concerti del Tempietto” series at the historic Roman venue. Ticket holders also receive a guided tour of the ancient theater.

To learn more, visit tempietto.it.

Marcellino Ristorante is located at 7114 E. Stetson Drive in Scottsdale. For the live music schedule, visit marcellinoristorante.com/news/calendar/.

During the summer months, the restaurant is open for dinner only, with lunch service resuming on Oct. 1.

For more details, visit marcellinoristorante.com or call 480-990-9500.

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