Recognize that guy on the awning from Casino?
Photos by Camille Dodero
Vinny Vella says his new pizzeria on Metropolitan Avenue is as much a place to hang out as it is a business. But for the actor known as the “Mayor of Elizabeth Street” hanging out is his business. At least one of them, along with acting and living well, to name a few.
“I’m so happy,” said Vella standing outside of his eponymous pizzeria last week surrounded by family, friends, and enough bit-part actors from mob movies to film a recreation of the famous meeting of the Five Families in upstate New York in 1957 . “It’s great. It’s a pizzeria but it also a place for my friends to come visit me. And I can feed them and they can hang out and everybody can be happy.”
The awning bears his name, the T-shirts feature his sorta-famous mug, and the walls of Vinny Vella’s Pizza are decorated in salute to mob movies and TV shows—and not just the ones (Casino, Analyze That, The Sopranos) that Vella himself played a role in.
Vinny and his partners bask in the adulation of the News 12 camera.
Chances are if you looked at somebody and thought “Wait a minute, is that…” the answer was “Yes.” Except for Joe Pesci—that was just a dead-ringer not the man himself.
From The Sopranos, there was Tony Lip who played Carmine Lupertazzi, Federico Castelluccio who played “Furio,” and Frank Albanese who played Uncle Pat Blundetto. True fans of celluloid mobsters would recognize Albanese as the mafia lawyer who makes the knowing face at the judge after young “Hendry” gets pinched and “breaks his cherry” in Goodfellas.
“He’s got a lot of pictures on the walls in there,” noted Albanese, a Staten Islander. “But he’s got none of me. I’m gonna have to talk to him about that.”
The pizza’s pretty good too: sweet sauce, light and crunchy crust, and not too heavy on the cheese. Not bad Brooklyn pizza for three guys from Manhattan. Dave Ellis, one of Vella’s partners, said he was working construction in Williamsburg when he noticed the storefront across the street from the Luna Lounge was vacant. He said he knew that the business would do well, at least, when the shows let out, if not all day long.
“This is gonna be the first,” said Ellis. “But we are looking to open up more, in the city, across the country. We’re gonna take this around the world.”
For now, you can find the pizzeria on Metropolitan Avenue.
See the resemblance? That’s Vinny and his daughter, Lauren.
That’s Frank Albanese—remember the scene in Goodfellas when the lawyer helps out Young Henry in his first skirmish with the law.
That’s marinara sauce on the right. On left is a picture of Vinny with Brooke Shields.
That looks like Vinny watching guard over Elizabeth Street.
Vinny with Susan Sarandon (in truck)
Here are some pictures of Vinny with Marty Scorcese and some other faces you might recognize. Plus condiments.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 15, 2007