John: I am John Dowling and I’m here with Joe Gannascoli. Congratulations on being nominated to Model Citizens Magazine.
Joe: Thank you. I appreciate it very much.
John: I have nominated you because first off, I’m the publisher and I can! Secondly, because I do follow you and your career and activities. We initially met at your home in 2007, right after your hip surgery, so I know you have been through some adversity yourself. I see that you are paying it forward and giving back to the community with so much of your time. Every day I see another post, another magazine article, another TV interview, of you helping and providing food for those that are in need right now.
Joe: When the pandemic first hit, I saw what was happening to a lot of these restaurants and how much they were struggling. As a former chef and restauranteur, I wanted to do something to help restaurants and frontline workers in our hospitals, nursing homes, fire and police departments, and the post office. All the people that were out there who could not stay home. I started a Go Fund Me account and from there it snowballed with word-of-mouth and people who are on all my social media, some contributed small amounts and some big, but it all makes a difference. I made it to $35,000, a little short of my goal of $50,000, but I did it for seven weeks and picked up and delivered over 100 meals. Sometimes it was breakfast from IHOP or lunch from any of the different restaurants in the neighborhood or dinner up until the late-night shifts.
John: You mentioned at the beginning of the call that a lot of restaurants are hurting right now. I happen to know a bit about the hospitality industry, and it is amazing that they are even surviving with all these limitations and the stress that puts on those businesses.
Joe: The boroughs in Manhattan are doing a lot worse than restaurants on Long Island.
John: Yes, essentially, they have been shut down.
Joe: They are closed. I don’t know the status of the ones on Long Island, I think you can still eat in them.
John: I think the space is limited and the number of patrons is limited. It’s mostly outside with a lot of inconveniences to clients, not shut down, but it is it’s mostly pickup and delivery.
Joe: Yes, there are deliveries, but I do think that there is still some dining inside for some restaurants on Long Island, but not in the boroughs.
John: Long Island is doing better than the boroughs, but everybody is still hurting and a lot of them are going under.
Joe: They are hurting.
John: There’s just not enough stimulus to help them get by and there’s not enough business to pay the bills. I’m not sure how they’re going to move forward.
Joe: They just need to hold on a little bit more. Now that we started the vaccines, hopefully in a month or two, if they just hang on, I think and hope things will open up and we will return to some sort of normalcy by spring.
John: Now most people know you from your role on the Sopranos, obviously, and your various acting engagements. What are you up to these days with regards to your acting?
Joe: I just finished a great part for a pilot in Montana with Kate Boswell called “Bring On the Dancing Horses”. It was a really great experience. I didn’t even have to audition because she knew my work and told her husband who is the director, writer-producer, that I was the guy for the role. They brought me out to Montana, and it supposed to be only a few days, but I wound up staying 10 days. Because it was the pilot, they wanted to make it really special. I worked with Kate, who is tremendous and great to work with. I’m not sure what their plans are for the show. I think it might be up for Apple TV. It is different and sort of out there and surreal, that’s about all I can say about it, but I’m very happy to be part of it.
Thirteen years later when I suggested after my role on the sopranos, to make my character gay from the book I was reading, to get more rolls, and to be more challenged as an actor, finally a nice piece of material came in, thirteen years later. It’s not exactly what I had in mind, but better late than never.
John: Will you be doing any additional acting soon? Is anything coming up or are you just taking it as it comes with the pandemic and everything?
Joe: I am taking it as it comes. Everyone was being tested every day on the set and in the hotel, we had private rooms to dine in. The rules are really strict and hard, so it is challenging to operate for film or television. Hopefully, by the time this comes out there will be more roles, and things will open up. We will see what happens, you never know.
In the meantime, to help support my family, I’ve been doing a lot of private cooking parties.
John: Tell us about the cooking. I know you are a chef and you’ve had your own sauces and other products.
Joe: I was a chef. I had restaurants and I lived in New Orleans, cooked in Los Angeles, Manhattan, and Brooklyn restaurants. These days people are looking for a unique dining experience. It is usually a group of friends getting together, someone is a big Soprano’s fan, maybe the husband, boyfriend, father, and so the private dining is a perfect gift. Generally, there is a minimum of 16 people and up to 30-35, but now it’s mostly parties of 8 to 12. I am in their house for about 10 hours. I make a big antipasto, linguine with clam sauce, and then their choice of perhaps Chilean Sea Bass or Filet Mignon and a few different sides. I have an assistant and I do the shopping. I have different price ranges from $125 a person to $175 and it’s been really good. People really enjoy it.
John: It sounds delicious!
Joe: It is usually a surprise. The person is out of the house and then when they come back, I answer the door and they are shocked I’m there. I answer all their questions and tell stories about filming and then take pictures with everybody. I’m just doing them every weekend. There are some that had to be re-scheduled, but the smaller ones are now happening, and it’s been great.
John: That’s beautiful! I know you like giving back and caring for others. I’m sure this is just a way of using your chef skills to make people very happy.
Joe: it’s a lot of fun to go into these people’s homes. You never know what kind of kitchen you’re going to walk into, but I always make it work. Some are small, others are big and there are different types of ovens, sometimes I need special pans. I find that I like gas stoves the best. We always get it done and our clients love it. I get tremendous reviews from the Tri-State Restaurants Club which has about 75,000 members on Facebook, and then it’s all word-of-mouth.
John: Congratulations on being nominated as a Model Citizen, it’s very well deserved, and with your continued success with your acting, cooking and of course with your philanthropic efforts which you know we highlight in Model Citizens Magazine.
Joe: Thank you very much. Congratulations to you and your new healthy self and healthy lifestyle. That is what you model the magazine after, which is great!