My law school classmate Victor Rallo is about to become famous. And not because he was just featured in last week’s Sunday New York Times.
Vic owns Basil T’s in Red Bank and co-owns Undici restaurant in Rumson. Over at the triCityNews, we’ve been chronicling his rise from shooting YouTube videos of himself talking about Italian food — to getting a television show that’s expected to go nationwide on public television after it debuts on July 6.
Called “Eat! Drink! Italy! with Victor Rallo,” the series is shot on location in Italy with Vic being Vic, which means a hilarious maniac. He’s shown above at a launch party for the show last month.
What’s hilarious, however, is how the local media has pretty much ignored the story except for the triCityNews. But now our competition, the New York Times, has jumped on it.
Last Sunday, the Times gave Vic a great spread. He’s going to take off. Remember, we spotted it first.
From the Times:
Hands-on is also a guiding principle of the show, which had its roots in YouTube. Mr. Rallo conceived of it in 2010, after a couple of years of posting cooking videos, shot in the kitchen of Basil T’s, to the site. “I started to get a following, a lot of attention,” he said, which prompted him to follow up on a friend’s invitation to meet with Mark Ganguzza, a director and producer, who agreed to work on the show and became its director and executive producer.
“We immediately became friends,” Mr. Rallo said, and in 2010 the two recruited a film crew and set off for Italy. The idea was to avoid “a normal recipe show,” Mr. Rallo said, adding, “Every day in Italy is an education — the wine, the food, the culture.” Home cooks and wine enthusiasts, he and Mr. Ganguzza decided, could vicariously learn lessons he picked up in his travels.
One episode, for example, includes a segment in which Mr. Rallo fries calamari after meeting with a squid purveyor in Sicily, and another in which he cooks a classic soup of tomatoes, porcini mushrooms, chickpeas and farro with a chef in Tuscany.
Despite the novelty of the direct-from-Italy approach, selling the show to television was not much like a stroll through an open-air market for Mr. Rallo. After securing a meeting with executives at WNET, the Manhattan-based PBS affiliate, in 2011, he was told he needed to find sponsors if the station was to consider picking up “Eat! Drink! Italy!” He met with potential sponsors, eventually enlisting nearly a dozen Italian food and wine companies for the show. The three PBS affiliates — WNET broadcasts in New York and New Jersey, WLIW21 on Long Island and NJTV in New Jersey, though all are based in the same Manhattan building — offered him a one-season contract.
For the triCityNews coverage, I interviewed the executives at Channel 13 who are behind the show. Under the public television model, member stations around the country will air shows produced by the major stations, such as WNET in New York or WGBH in Boston. They said a show like Victor’s would be expected to be picked up nationwide.
The Times didn’t say that. The triCityNews did. We’re still ahead of the story — and the competition.
Click here for the full Times story.
Watch the first broadcast with Victor Rallo himself at the Count Basie on July 6th. Click here for more information about the event, which is also a benefit for the Basie Performing Arts Academy.