By People Staff
October 21, 2002 12:00 PM

Three days overdue and sick of being pregnant, Melanie Kresses took action on Sept. 21. She didn’t demand a dose of Pitocin from her doctor. She did drive to Scalini’s restaurant in a suburban Atlanta strip mall. There, like countless impatient moms-to-be before her, she ordered the eggplant parmigiana. The dish lived up to its lore: Within 24 hours Melanie and her husband, Jay, 41, welcomed 8-lb. 2½-oz. Noah Blake into the world. “For whatever reason,” says Melanie, 24, “it worked.”

The legend of the eggplant began 25 years ago, when restaurateur John Bogino’s then-wife Diane (the couple divorced in 1986) was expecting her second child. “After my mother had it,” says son Bobby, now manager of the Smyrna, Ga., establishment, “she had me.” Pretty soon other mothers-in-waiting—some overdue, some just over it—began waddling into Scalini’s on a regular basis. To date, say the Boginos, more than 300 have given birth within 48 hours.

Though docs don’t put much stock in the labor-inducing powers of parmigiana, many prescribe the $9.95 entrée to fretful patients anyway. “Perception becomes reality,” says local obstetrician Jeffrey Marcus, who speculates that the placebo effect may be at work. In any case, he adds, “it’s good for them. I’d much rather they eat that than fast food.”

To the Boginos—who treat the parents of each “eggplant baby” to dinner and hang the infant’s photo on the restaurant’s wall—scientific questions are beside the point. “The women believe it,” John says, “so of course we do too.”