‘Frankie Coffeecake’ and memories of shooting ‘A Bronx Tale’

Throggs Neck’s Dave Salerno with “a friend” while filming A Bronx Tale 20 years ago. Film’s director and star Robert DeNiro cast him as “Frankie Coffeecake.”
Photo Courtesy of Dave Salerno

There was Sally Slick, Phil the Peddler, Eddie Mush, JoJo the Whale, Jimmy Whispers, Tony Toupee and Crazy Mario.

And of course, Frankie Coffeecake.

That last one was the character Throggs Neck guy Dave Salerno wound up playing in that classic Coming of Age movie “A Bronx Tale.”

It was 20 years ago this week, August 31 to be exact, that the first day of shooting got underway for the tale of Calogero ‘C’ Anello growing up in Belmont, and torn between loyalty to his hardworking bus driver dad, played by director Robert DeNiro, and local gangster Sonny LoSpecchio, played by playwright and scriptwriter Chazz Palminteri, who put so much of his own Belmont childhood memories into it.

Since then, the movie has joined “Marty,” “The Wanderers,” “Fort Apache, The Bronx,” and “Raging Bull” among the ranks of classic Bronx films.

“I can recall that early morning – 5:30 a.m.,” Salerno said of the first day of shooting.

It wasn’t in Belmont, but 30th Avenue and 44th Street in Astoria, Queens – “a place I had never been in my entire life.”

When he first showed up for casting call, Salerno said DeNiro turned to Palminteri and said “I’d like to use him for coffee and cake.”

“I was flabbergasted. Here I thought I was doing so good and now he’s going to send me for coffee and cake.”

If there was a ring of authenticity to the neighborhood characters in the film, it was because they WERE neighborhood characters.

“The rest of the cast was made up of guys just like me, guys off the street who never acted before, including the incomparable “Eddie Mush” – Joe Black, who did a great job of being shot death.”

Highlights of the movie for Salerno:

“The dice scene. We all had fun being locked in the bathroom. It created the line I always hear: ‘Put him in the bathroom!’

“Having a small scene with Robert DeNiro when he comes in the bar looking for his son.

“Working on a movie with my boyhood friend Chazz Palminteri. We were connected in so many ways.”

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