In conjunction with the opening of his restaurant, Chazz, in July of 2011, I had the opportunity to meet and talk in person with Chazz Palminteri along with my buddy, Marty. Chazz may be best known for his roles in “The Bronx Tale,” “Bullets Over Broadway,” and “The Usual Suspects” but also more recently has made a hit with recurring appearances on the hit TV show, “Modern Family”.
John – What’s your favorite type of Pizza?
Chazz -> The simplest one is the toughest to make. It’s Margherita. Tomato, Mozzerella – that’s it! I like the classic simplicity of Pizza Margherita.
John – What makes a restaurant good?
Chazz – If you go to a restaurant and want to see if it’s really good, there are three things that you’ve got to order. Linguine Marinara, Caesar Salad and Rack of Lamb. That will tell you how the restaurant is right away. If they make those things good, it’s a good restaurant. Because Caesar Salad has very different ways to make but it’s hard to make it and it’s hard to really nail it. Linguine Marinara – Very simple! Just pasta and sauce. But the pasta has to be cooked perfectly and the sauce has to be just right. If the sauce is good, you’ll know the other dishes will be good.
John – When do you know if a sauce not good?
Chazz – If they don’t use the real tomatoes from Italy or if they cheapen it and water it down to get more sauce.
John – Do you ever cook yourself?
Chazz – There are a few things that I cook well. Sauce, Shrimp Scampi, fish with honey and lemmon… I’m not a great cook but there are like 5 things I can do well. Anything else, I have my wife do it! On Sunday, I make the sauce for the family. The marinara takes 20 minutes of prep and an hour to cook. With high quality tomatoes, you don’t need to take 4-5 hours to make good sauce.
John – You’re in good shape – Do any desserts on the menu tempt you?
Chazz – I’m not big on sweets but the Chocolate Espresso tart! I don’t drink coffee but wow! Great, really great!
John: You’re far more known for your serious roles. How did you get involved in the “Modern Family” episode?
Chazz: Well they called me, Ed O’Neill, who I know, and he spoke to the producers and they were looking for a guy to play a gay guy that wasn’t overtly gay… I loved that I said because not every gay man is effeminate like people think. I didn’t want to play effeminate because I just thought it was a stereotype, you know? … So I said great. I said but we have this thing where we’re not sure he’s gay, but is he gay? But he’s not—but is he? I said we can have a running gag with that throughout the whole piece and it might be funny. They liked that idea, and it was just great.
John: It worked fantastically, and the ambiguity made it zing
Chazz: The ambiguity that made it so great. And then he went: “Hey where’d you get that haircut? Hey I like that…” You know what I mean? I always wanted to play a gay guy who wasn’t overtly gay, because I knew those guys from my neighborhood in the Bronx. A couple of guys were gay and when I heard I was like, “He’s gay? No kidding!” I didn’t know he was gay because he was a tough guy. The guy was a legitimate tough guy and I couldn’t get over it, and I always found that fascinating. So when I see a movie or something when they play someone who’s overtly gay, I go: Play it more real, you know? Be honest… I did an episode of “The Fanelli Boys” years ago and I play this guy—not a similar character but he was on the football team, he was a tough guy and he was gay… I just knew when you play against that and you play it real, it can be very, very funny.
John: Is there any chance that character will make a reappearance at some point?
Chazz: I would love to. And we talked about it and they said if they could, they’ll find a way they could bring him back. But you know I would love to go back and do it because I would love to do that character… I thought it’s a very well-written show. … I love comedy, but I get cast in a lot of these heavy roles, which is fine too. But I love when I get the chance to do comedy. …I’ve done a lot of movies—55 or 60 movies—but I did that “Married with Children” and just everybody saw it and everybody loves it and I like that, you know? I like that.