You know what Christmas is most filled with, beyond corporate greed, egg nog come to and the portent of sugar-rushing comas, and old fat men who need the extra money playing cutesy with your kid, but it’s OK because he’s wearing a Santa hat?
Italians. Sure, Catholics come in different stripes and nationalities, and most of you don’t care for any of us. And yet, you can’t have a Philly Christmas without older Italian cats smoking chewed up De Nobilis, telling you what was wrong with “The Irishman,” or younger ones getting juiced up at NOTO or crying about getting dimed out for being caught cheating via Instagram right before the holiday.
I love those people. They’re my people. And, while there’s no weirder sign of Italian-ness than having Sylvester Stallone appear at Philly’s Art Museum steps, next to his Rocky statue, with the promise/threat of something new – see Facebook’s first scheduled Super Bowl ad featuring Sly recreating his “Rocky” run.
Side note: Is it me or does Stallone just drive around in his limo with a newly weather-worn leather jacket and a rolled brim trilby at his ready to make with his Balboa routine? Anyway, there are truly great, fresh, Italian things rolling this season that do not require shouts of “Adrian!” in the streets to frighten millennial Medicans who only know Rocky as Michael Jordan’s trainer in “Creed.”
It’s pronounced, “sauseeege”
Last week chef-owner Michael Schulson and his wife-partner Nina Tinari opened their second Italio-pasta palace in 12 months – the first being the South Philly red gravy-themed Giuseppe & Sons – in the intimate Via Locusta. Crammed between Parc and Prime Rib off Rittenhouse Square, Via Locusta is more of an elegant lab/salon experience, than it is a family-style affair, so take the napkin out of your collar.
On the experimental pasta lab tip, I hear that chef-owner Marc Vetri has been quietly hosting soft tryouts of Fiorella – his new Italian Market pasta bar purchase of the old Fiorella’s Sausage space – with a possible al dente opening in January. Atza nize.
And, for this edition’s final bit of Italian news, noted Trump-hater and the aforementioned “Irishman” himself, Robert De Niro, will make good on what was promised earlier this summer, his next Philly-made film, “After Exile.” I’m hearing from no less an expert than Greater Philadelphia Film Office doyenne Sharon Pinkenson that “we are anticipating active preproduction on ‘After Exile’ after the first of the year,” while confirming the crime drama’s cast will also include Chloë Grace Moretz (“Greta”), Shailene Woodley (“Big Little Lies”), Miles Teller (“Whiplash”), and Mike Delaney (“The Dictator”). Shia LaBeouf, who was originally mentioned as one of the screenwriters I’m told won’t be making an appearance.
For anyone keeping Philly filming score, De Niro made movies throughout the city (and was Oscar nominated) for “The Silver Linings Playbook,” as well as another Bradley Cooper flick, “Limitless.”
Kurt Vile’s stepping out
Philadelphia’s answer to everything that is great and dynamic about Neil Young, but without the Civil War general sideburns is most certainly Kurt Vile and the guitarist-singer is plotting quite a lot as 2019 comes to a close. last witnessed opening for John Prine at the Merriam, Vile recently announced his first solo tour in a decade – yes, without the Violators – where he’ll play with openers and show mates Cate Le Bon, Stephen Black, and Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa.
When it comes to the Philly dates we’re looking at April 20-21 at World Café Live. Vile has partnered with the charity PLUS1 so that $1 from every ticket sold goes to support HeadCount, which works to promote civic engagement and inform and register young voters. We also just spied Vile, along with another local, The War on Drugs’ Adam Granduciel, on the credits for the upcoming Sore Eros album.
Connecticut Yankee Robert Robinson’s lo-fi, psych-rock ensemble will drop a new self-titled album on Jan. 10, with Granduciel as engineer and producer, Vile as its guest star, a role that Kurt has played several times in Sore Eros’ history as the grooving two-some co-released their “Jamaica Plain EP and an eponymously titled EP before that.
Philadelphia’s answer to everything that is great and dynamic about Neil Young, but without the Civil War general sideburns is most certainly Kurt Vile.
Rent’s due, mothafucka
Everyone loves a landlord at the holidays, and it looks as if Philly has two bright big and shiny and evil ones ready to stuff coal down children’s stockings. While Blue Bell-based Goldenberg Group just announced a buyout of the partners at the famed 1213 Walnut apartment tower – one of the city’s three most luxe housing opportunities – without too much warning, TF Cornerstone, the owner and operator of historic properties such as New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, just got hold of its first Philadelphia acquisition, the 435,000-square-foot, three-story retail portion of Macy’s at Center City’s Wanamaker Building. Look, pal, don’t fuck with the eagle or the organ, and we’re good.
WHOWHATWHERE: This was a minute ago but recent enough to tell you that actor Adam Driver walked out of an NPR studio in Manhattan while being interviewed from Philadelphia by our mistress of talk radio, Terry Gross for her “Fresh Air” program – all because she played a clip of him singing Sondheim’s “Being Alive,” during “Marriage Story.” Since that moment I have read a dozen-plus/negative takes on Driver and one interesting back-and-forth in Slate with self-care as its focus. I even looked at myself in a long mirror, singing “Being Alive” out loud, and it is freaky to behold. Every song from “Company” is an exaggerated vowel sound epic of facial muscle tics. I would’ve walked away from me if I could have. What keeps making me giggling out loud, however, is the thought of Driver’s hulking, stalking Kylo Ren, from “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” similarly skulking out of a tiny recording studio after Gross’ quietly having freaked him out, glowering with a glowing lightsaber in hand. Sometimes, it’s the little things.