LOCAL HERO: On the Rocks: The Primadonna Story. I just finished reading the fascinating saga of Joe Costanzo, a mailman turned restaurateur turned prisoner. Joe was a classmate of mine and a basketball star at Central Catholic School in Pittsburgh. Against the advice of his family, he gave up his secure job with the Postal Service and opened an upscale restaurant in a very down-and-out place, McKees Rocks, a blue-collar town outside Pittsburgh that had fallen on hard times with the collapse of the steel industry.

It was a struggle to survive at first, but in the 1990s his Primadonna restaurant became a hot spot thanks to Joe’s family recipes for Italian food, his personality (he’d been the friendliest guy in our high school, greeting everyone by name as he walked down the halls), and his indefatigable marketing efforts. The place got rave reviews from restaurant critics, had two-hour-long lines of customers waiting for a table, and inspired visiting pro athletes and celebrities to make the trek down the Ohio River to sample the wares of Joe and his wife, Donna. Then Joe tried going into politics, spending too much money on a losing campaign for county commissioner. His financial woes led to trouble with the IRS (for tax evasion) and a stint in prison — where Joe again made friends with everyone. The book, written by Joe’s daughter, Maria Costanzo Palmer, and Ruthie Robbins, is an inside look at the restaurant business — and a well-told story of American entrepreneurship.