The scent of cigars has been wafting from the lounge at 7410 Madison since 2007. Casa de Puros is an upscale sanctuary for stogie lovers. Members can relax in overstuffed comfort, enjoying their favorite smokes, surrounded by big screen TV’s. This sedate setting will be shaken-up this Saturday, though, when Hollywood star Armand Assante arrives at noon to promote his Ora Vivo brand of premium boutique cigars.

If you’re unfamiliar with Assante’s body of work, he’s starred in several memorable films,  Private BenjaminI, the Jury and American Gangster. The Golden Globe Winner with the hooded dark eyes is known for playing heavies like Bugsy Siegel and John Gotti. Contrary to his menacing screen presence, though, Assante is a devout Catholic who has led many humanitarian missions to Eastern Europe. 

He is also a cigar aficionado who partnered with Legacy Brands in 2013 to launch the Ora Vivo. This cigar combines tobacco from three growing regions in Nicaragua to create a smooth smoking experience. It has received rave reviews from cigar experts.

Brian McGuire, Manager of Casa de Puros, knows firsthand how pleasant an Ora Vivo can be. It has a bold but smooth taste that fits his customer’s palates. It burns consistently thanks to quality control in the hand rolling process. And, in the world of premium cigars, it’s priced affordably.

This was borne out by Brian’s initial offering of Ora Vivos. After stocking eight boxes on a Thursday, Brian found the shelf empty by Saturday. Determined to promote the cigar, Brian began working last July with boutique cigar rep Gary Macchione to arrange for Assante to come to Forest Park. Finally, Victor Vitale, leader of Legacy Brands, said the star would be arriving on May 31. 

To host the event, Brian has joined forces with several Madison Street businesses. Jimmy’s Place will cater the dinner at 7 p.m., while House Red provides the wine. Prior to that, there will be a meet and greet with Assante from noon to 4 p.m. His movies will be playing on monitors. There will be wine and cheese and bourbon samplings. 

Dinner with Assante, which costs $225-$250, will include a box of Ora Vivo cigars, an autographed photo taken with the star and autographed movie posters. Part of the proceeds will go to Wounded Warriors. 

“The street will be buzzing,” Brian predicted, “There will be a lot of electricity.” He already enjoys the “downtown feel” of Madison Street, with its foot traffic. Customers stop in to sample the hundred-plus brands Casa de Puros offers, while the lounge is home to members. “We’re selling the cigar-smoking experience,” Brian said, “Not just the cigar.” 

“The lounge is a great place to decompress. We have an eclectic array of professionals that share the common bond of enjoying cigars. The lounge has a great synergy where members become friends. It’s a focal point for watching sports, or meeting up before a game.” The dark-paneled interior doesn’t only appeal to male smokers. “We have a large number of women who come to smoke,” Brian said, “Cigars are like a culture.” 

Besides embracing this culture at Casa de Puros, Brian has held successful cigar events at Old School and McGaffer’s. By the way, Brian has a valuable piece of advice for all you cigar smokers: “Don’t inhale.” 

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.

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