BY GABRIELLE GUZ
The neighborhood was out in force outside Our Lady of Grace Church on Saturday, July 13 to celebrate actor Vincent Pastore birthday a little early at an old-fashioned Brooklyn block party.
Hosted by Gravesend-born actor and filmmaker William DeMeo and Michelle Frantzeskos’s Entertainment and Consultant Inc., there was food, music and dancing aplenty.
Classic cars lined up along the church’s parking lot. Maria “The Ice Cream Girl” Campanella’s ice cream truck, Stella’s Zeppoles, A&S Fine Store’s BBQ and Isabella Creations’ birthday cake provided the food.
Vendors onsite to sell their wares included Brooklyn Brand T-shirts, Wise Girl Wear perfume and Wise Guy Wear cologne. The music was powered by DJ’s McGee Too, Lenny Santawasso and Ross the Boss.
A $20 donation to the church was the price of admission. Participants also had countless opportunities to take photos with and get autographs from celebrities, including Joseph D’Onofrio, Federico Castelluccio, Robert Gillings and Rick Borgia, as well as DeMeo and, of course, Pastore himself.
A few days prior to the event, DeMeo said he couldn’t wait to bring back, even if for a night, the tradition of Brooklyn block parties, something he said people always looked forward to in the summertime.
“I like events like these, when people can get a sense of how they grew up, coming back to just the way it was,” DeMeo said in a phone interview before the party. “It’s a great feeling to see people you haven’t seen in years. Lots of those who moved on have come back because they want to feel like they did when they were younger. We want to remember how we grew up.”
As part of the event, the hosts had a surprise not only for the guest of honor but also for the “Sopranos” fans in attendance who gathered around a Swan truck, a rented vehicle that provides high resolution screens for video and audio entertainment, to watch clips of Pastore’s most notable performances on the TV series.
Later, Frances Mignano, a Brooklyn-born actress, producer and singer, took to the microphone to sing “Happy Birthday,” alongside a couple of hit songs, such as Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and Madonna’s “Open Your Heart.”
Domini Monroe, a musical artist, and Biagio Benevenga, an Italian-American singer, drove the excitement of the night forward, as party-goers hit the dance floor.
Monroe performed her own hit songs, while Benevenga brought the crowd back to the ‘80s with Joe Dolce’s “Shaddap Your Face” and Julius La Rosa’s “Eh Cumpari.”
“Everybody from Brooklyn, from Michele, to Willy, my dear friend — he is like my son — thank you,” said Pastore. “You know, I met Willy many years ago. I was doing a project and Willy came up. He handed me a script called the ‘Wannabees.’ And I looked at him and said, ‘You don’t come up to an actor when he’s doing a movie and hand him a script.’ He then went on to do so many projects.”
He continued, “I was so happy that he always called me and said, ‘Hey, Vinny, you want to do this, or do you want to do that?’ He always gave me something different, and I am
happy to say that I am working with Willy on ‘Gravesend,’ his new project.”
“Vinny is a class-act. He is such a talent,” said DeMeo, “And to have him in my projects, it’s so incredible. He’s a great guy, through and through.”
Pastore announced that his band, “Big Pussy’s Gangster Squad,” will be playing at the Bar 360 at Resorts World Casino on July 18, beginning at 8 p.m.