Chazz Palminteri owes a lot to The Bronx, he says.
After all, it was his Italian-American upbringing in the Belmont section that inspired the 1993 film “A Bronx Tale.” Though some time has since passed, the coming-of-age film reentered the spotlight as a hit Broadway musical just two years ago.
In addition to captivating audiences for 25 years, Palminteri — whose full name is Calogero Lorenzo Palminteri — wanted to create a tangible memento for film fanatics and New Yorkers alike. So he partnered with Steiner Sports in New Rochelle to create A Bronx Tale Collection, a line of sports collectibles featuring motifs from the movie.
Chazz Palminteri announces collection with Steiner Sports “I’ve got tremendous pride that I come from this neighborhood,” says Palminteri, who lives in Bedford. “Too many people want to forget where they came from. I want to remind people of where I came from, because The Bronx is part of who I am. The Bronx is why I’m here.”
The collection is an ode to Palminteri’s love for baseball, the Boogie Down (a nod to the borough as the birthplace of hip-hop) and “A Bronx Tale,” and a real testament to his New York pride. The merchandise includes framed subway signs, spotlighting popular movie quotes; framed, vintage Belmont Avenue street signs; and display cases with the option of a signed baseball and an autographed photo of Palminteri taken from the film.
According to Palminteri, these are the first items to feature quotes from the movie, along with his personal signature.
“I’ve been signing baseballs for a long time,” he says. “But the difference here, with Steiner Sports, is that I’ve never put a saying on a baseball — not once. These are all one of a kind, all signed by me.”
It comes as no surprise that Palminteri returned to his old stomping grounds to unveil the memorabilia at Gino’s Pastry Shop on Arthur Avenue, just steps away from where he grew up. And when he arrived, it was like he’d never left. He reunited with the shop’s owner, Jerome Gino Raguso, whom he’s known for years, while old neighborhood friends came pouring through the door, wanting to say hello.
“I owe some dedication to this neighborhood and to the people who are here,” Palminteri says.
Palminteri even has a personal coffee cup that he keeps at Gino’s Pastry Shop for his visits. It features a Yankee theme, in honor of Palminteri’s favorite baseball team, which helped inspire this collection.
“I’m a real Yankee fan. I breathe pinstripes,” says Palminteri, while sipping a freshly brewed cappuccino, paired with a homemade cannoli. “Baseball was always a part of my life.”
But one of the collection’s most unique attributes is, undoubtedly, the quotes chosen from the movie. Part of the continuous appreciation for “A Bronx Tale” is due to its wealth of life lessons, delivered with New York-style flair, from understanding the importance of family to staying close to what matters most in life.
Some of the quotes written on the memorabilia include: “The working man is the tough guy. Your father’s the tough guy;” and “See if your father can’t pay the rent. Go ask Mickey Mantle and see what he tells you.”
Still sipping cappuccino, Palminteri explains the quotes.
“In 1960, when the (Pittsburgh) Pirates beat the Yankees, I was devastated,” he says. “I cried. I was upset. Then, I met a ‘wise guy,’ who looked at me and said, ‘Nobody cares. Mickey Mantle isn’t going to pay your rent. What are you worried about Mickey Mantle for?’ I’ll never forget that.”
And, of course, perhaps best known of all, “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent,” from Palminteri’s father.
“My dad wrote this on an index card and he put it in my room when I was a little boy,” he says. “That was one of the things that really motivated me not to waste my life.”
It paid off, as Palminteri’s success was built on persistence.
After writing “A Bronx Tale” over the course of a year, he began performing a one-man show, “A Bronx Play,” which caught the attention of several film studios. Despite only having a few hundred dollars to his name, Palminteri rejected offers for $250,000, $500,000 and even $1 million to surrender the rights to his story. It was only two weeks after the largest offer that Palminteri met Robert De Niro in a dressing room and the pair agreed that De Niro would direct the film, while Palminteri would write the screenplay and play the character of Sonny, a mobster. They solidified the deal with a handshake.
“It’s funny,” Palminteri says. “I did 60 movies and they still talk about ‘A Bronx Tale.’ People go, ‘I love that movie,’ and I always want to say, ‘Which one?’ But it seems like they’re always talking about ‘A Bronx Tale.’”
There’s also a taste of the seminal film at Gino’s Pastry Shop, with The Chazz, a delectable dessert topped with a layer of rich cannoli cream and a layer of decadent French chocolate, and “A Bronx Tale” special — a cappuccino/cannoli combo.
You can enjoy these confections there. Or, to borrow from another film, “The Godfather,” you can “take the cannoli.”
Gino’s Pastry Shop is at 580 E. 187 St. in the Belmont section of The Bronx. For more about Chazz Palminteri, visit chazzpalminteri.net. For more about the sports collection, visit steinersports.com. For more about “A Bronx Tale: The Musical,” visit broadway.com/shows/bronx-tale/.