My lunch with Robert De Niro and Chazz Palminteri
Aldo Vitale, Sergio Vitale, Chazz Palminteri, Robert De Niro and Alessandro Vitale (courtesy of Edith Williams/Diamond Digital Portraits / December 3, 2011)
De Niro was traveling on Saturday from Philadelphia, where he's filming a movie, to Washington, D.C., for the annual Kennedy Center Honors. I was at the restaurant when De Niro visited, with a dog's-eye view of the excitement. Actually it was less exciting than sweet. Palminteri and his Baltimore partners, the Vitale family, were obviously delighted that De Niro, a noted restaurateur in his own right, was coming for a visit. The staff was, too.
De Niro and his wife, Grace Hightower, lunched privately with the Palminteri and the restaurant’s co-owners, Alessandro and Sergio Vitale. As reported, the group's late-afternoon meal included veal meatball appetizer with fresh whipped ricotta cheese, a pizza made with the restaurant’s burrata -a super-rich combination of mozzarella and cream -- a caprese salad, penne with blackened chicken, and an assortment of homemade desserts.
After lunch, De Niro posed patiently for photographs in front of the restaurant's "pizza altar." Gathered behind the professional photographer hired for the occasion, a small phalanx of restaurant's staff and customers -- by this time it was close to 4 p.m. -- took their own smart-phone photographs of the posed groups.
"Why you must be Richard," Robert De Niro did not say to me when he shook my hand.