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Palminteri Columbus Day grand marshal

Bronx Times

This coming Bronx Columbus Day Parade will honor Italian-Americans Hollywood style.

Famed Bronx auteur Chazz Palminteri will headline the 37th annual parade as this year’s grand marshal.

He’ll lead marchers up Morris Park Ave. alongside honorary marshal Lisa Maffei-Fuentes, principal of Columbus High School.

Helming the parade was a no-brainer for Palminteri, an Oscar nominee whose 1993 film “A Bronx Tale,” which he penned and co-starred in with Robert DeNiro, paid tribute to the Bronx’s Italian honest working class. The movie shot Palminteri to stardom.

“I have to thank the Bronx for making me a star,” said Palminteri, 61, a Sicilian-American whose screen credits include “The Usual Suspects,” “Bullets Over Broadway,” and “Mulholland Falls.”

He’s also seen on TV, appearing regularly on “Rizzoli & Isles” and “Modern Family.”

But Palminteri’s still a regular in his old Belmont neighborhood, taking monthly trips to the Gino’s Pastry Shop, Mike’s Deli and Casa Mozzarella for some Italian fare. His family’s been so ingrained in the neighborhood that a bulk of his relatives, including him, have tied the knot at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on 187th Street.

“My grandmother got married in Mount Carmel before there were even steps -- they walked up plywood,” said Palminteri, 61, also chair of the Child Reach Foundation with wife Janna and attorney Phil Foglia, last year’s parade grand marshal. The group offers aid to special-needs children of law enforcement officers.

Palminteri will be a busy guy prior to the parade. He’s set to do a one-man Broadway show of “A Bronx Tale” on July 26 at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, NJ and another performance at Lehman College Oct. 3. Proceeds go to charity.

Honoring An Educator

Fuentes had no idea her parade co-star will be Palminteri, a man so used to the spotlight in the borough.

Fuentes, however, is still getting used to the news.

“I’m one of those people who doesn’t like the spotlight, but really likes the honor,” said Fuentes, 54, a lifelong Pelham Parkway local, growing up in an Italian, Indian and Irish home.

The Bronx Columbus Day Parade has been a fixture for her family, particularly her mother, who still gathers the family for weekend dinners.

“She’s going to really enjoy watching the parade this year,” said Maffei-Fuentes.

Her whole life has been dedicated to Columbus High School, first as a student then later as a teacher and principal. She’s since spent 29 years as an educator there, instilling a family feel to the neighborhood school.

“We create a family here,” she said. “And the kids are part of that family.”

Persistence Paid Off

It took some persistence to lure Palminteri to the parade, after three consecutive years of conflicts left him unable to accept. But parade chair Tony Signorile, newly-elected president of the Morris Park Civic Association, finally secured Palminteri.

“I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse,” joked Signorile, who shocked guests at the association on July 3 with his surprising announcement.

But picking Maffei-Fuentes was considered an ode to education, valued highly by Signorile.

“When we took over the parade we wanted to honor an educator,” said Signorile. “The educator spends hours and hours with a child.”

The parade kicks off Sunday, October 13, stepping off at White Plains Road and Morris Park Avenue, and finishing at the reviewing stand at Morris Park Avenue and Williamsbridge Road.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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