‘God­fa­ther’ ac­tor signs bot­tles at The Win­ery

Record Observer - - News - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­times.com

CH­ESTER — Stand­ing be­hind a ta­ble with black vodka bot­tles and cases of liquor wait­ing to be sold, ac­tor Gianni Russo ate olives and waited for peo­ple to en­ter The Win­ery in Ch­ester so he could pour them a drink of Don Cor­leone Or­ganic Ital­ian Vodka on Fri­day, July 8.

The rea­son Russo, who grew up in New York City, was on the East­ern Shore play­ing bar­tender at the lo­cal liquor shop was be­cause of the God­fa­ther-in­spired vodka brand he is the am­bas­sador of given he played Carlo Rizzi in the orig­i­nal film. The vodka is be­ing re­leased by Para­mount Pic­tures and has ex­panded into 21 states within its first five months of pro­duc­tion.

“I read the book in 1969 and that’s how long my in­volve­ment has been,” Russo said. “I love be­ing a part of such an iconic brand and to be one of the am­bas­sadors of it. It’s such a priv­i­lege.”

As peo­ple en­tered the store look­ing for their wine and spir­its, the score from “The God­fa­ther” movie played in the back­ground. Some cus­tomers rec­og­nized the man from the movies and oth­ers just passed by as if he were any old sales­man. Russo would ask any­one within lis­ten­ing dis­tance if they wanted to try a taste of the quadru­ple dis­tilled, or­ganic Ital­ian vodka that was re­leased on Feb. 4 at Sherry-Lehmann Wine and Spir­its in New York City. Russo asked those who de­clined if they had seen the movie “The God­fa­ther.”

“I’m Carlo Rizzi,” he would tell them, al­most in­stantly grab­bing their at­ten­tion and at­tract­ing them to his sta­tion.

Russo poured small shots for peo­ple to try as well as signed pur­chased bot­tles of the liquor. The bot­tle, which is all black with a gold cap on the top, has the iconic “God­fa­ther” pic­ture of Don Cor­leone, played by Mar­lon Brando. The bot­tles, which were in stock at the store be­fore Russo an­nounced his visit, are sold for $35 each.

“I bought [Don Cor­leone Vodka] in and I got a call from my rep ... and he called me one morn­ing and said how would you like Carlo” to come to the store, The Win­ery Gen­eral Man­ager Steven Salkin said. “I was like, you gotta be kid­ding. I’m a huge God­fa­ther fan. I know the movie by heart .... This is just so cool.”

The drink is pro­duced and bot­tled by Dis­til­lerie Fran­coli in Ghemme, Italy, and uses wa­ter sourced from the Ital­ian Alps. Russo said the fi­nal step be­fore the prod­uct goes into the vats is it is poured over frozen gran­ite, which has min­er­als to help soften the grain vodka, Russo said.

“I drank vodka with (Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir) Putin on Skype in Novem­ber and we did a blind tast­ing — he drinks Bel­uga Black, which is prob­a­bly the most ex­pen­sive vodka in the world — and he swore he was drink­ing that cause we did a blind tast­ing, and he drank Don Cor­leone.”

Though “The God­fa­ther” film is Russo’s most rec­og­niz­able role, he said he has been in more than 40 movies. He died in 16 of those, in­clud­ing “The God­fa­ther,” he said.

“I’m just a street guy from New York,” Russo said. “I’ve been blessed all my life. This film changed my life.”

Fol­low Mike Davis on Twit­ter: @mike_k­ibay­times.


From left: John Barbo, Pasquale DiDonato, Gianni Russo and Vince Pereira throw back some Don Cor­leone Vodka at The Win­ery on Fri­day, July 8. Russo was on the East­ern Shore pro­mot­ing the vodka.

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