Logline: A woman now finds herself in charge of a bustling downtown restaurant with her two sons as she struggles to keep her legacy alive while overcoming the dramas of her past. Tag: “If secrets be the food of love, there’s a feast in Center City. Come hungry.”
Center City is a serial drama set in the heart of downtown Philadelphia, the story of an extended family. Not quite as homespun as Ryan’s Hope nor as elegant as Dynasty, still a serial drama at its best with a central matriarch. The characters develop in the course of milestone events and deep dark secrets. Center City, inspired by creators like Claire Labine and Agnes Nixon at their best, portends to bring the characters to life in the environs of a city with people who express a unique identity yet are easily identifiable. The individual histories have an ongoing sense even when plot points are resolved. The romance is edgy, the past looms unresolved; both ignite the present.
Music is Dee Dee Sharp's DEEP DARK SECRET written by Ed Rambeau, no copyright infringement intended.
Created by Giovanni Vitacolonna
Written by Giovanni Vitacolonna
Creatively Edited by David A Gregory
Logline: A woman now finds herself in charge of a bustling downtown
restaurant with her two sons as she struggles to keep her legacy alive while
overcoming the dramas of her past.
Tag: “If secrets be the food of love, there’s a feast in CenterCity.
Anna and her two handsome sons run a successful Italian restaurant on Rittenhouse Square
This is a passionate world full of warmth, food, music and a lot of history
that will start to unravel and reveal the truth. Each character is a vivid
piece of the puzzle. We are at a buffet table of emotions, good, bad and
everything in between.
The pilot was written by
Giovanni Vitacolonna and edited by David A Gregory.
De Marco: 50. Attractive, Sicilian American restaurant
owner of Gaetano's.Feminine, yet formidable. A
matriarch who loves her two sons more than anything. Opinionated and
controlling yet caring at the same time. She yearns to love again.
Marc De Marco: 30. Tall,
athletic and hauntingly attractive. Appears calm and in control to the world
but beneath the surface lies a tortured soul. Struggles with his homosexuality,
his decision to leave the priesthood and his specific sexual proclivity. It is
through the telling of Marc’s story that the Church is taken to task. Possible
gay sexual nudity.
Domenic De Marco: 25.
Italian-American.Strikingly good looking. Confident, cocky
and flirtatious, but very much in love with his fiancée. Both
street and book smart, he keeps his educated life under wraps so as not to
distance himself too much from "the neighborhood" where his family is
from, South Philly. Possible sexual nudity.
Valerie Festa: 25.Strikingly
beautiful Afro-Italian, Single mother. Very much in love with her fiancé,
Domenic De Marco. Her singing can mesmerize you. Positive and forward thinking
despite the hardships that she has faced in life. An activist and
advocate for HIV/AIDS causes. Possible sexual nudity
Thomas "Tommy" Avalon: mid to late20's.
Handsome and athletic but the weight of his strugglesare worn
on his face.The sous-chef at Gaetano's but eager for more
responsibility. Secretly in love with Marc. Not an alcoholic, but when we
first meet him he has a reliance upon alcohol to soothe his demons. A former
male prostitute. Possible gay sexual nudity.
Nicola “Nick” De Marco (50) is
a charming rapscallion once married to Anna and father to Domenic and Marc. He
has a reputation for being a womanizer and an absentee father. His goal is to
redeem himself to a certain extent with his family. He “sits” on many solutions
to the puzzle.
Mike Sheehan: (38). Ruggedly
handsome, Irish American. A charming rogue that may
or may not be connected to the mob. He is a bartender at the restaurant and a former cop.
His personable demeanor should not be cause to underestimate him. He
has the ability to go from charming to deadly in the blink of an eye.
Marlena Hightower Festa:
50s. Majestic, African American woman. A doctor
specializing in infectious diseases. Intelligent and outspoken, she isn't
afraid of anyone...not even Anna De Marco. Her daughter, Valerie,
is the pride and joy of her life.
Gianni Festa 50s is a gentle soul and a
musician. It is through him that Valerie gets her love of music. He adores his
daughter and is a very protective father and adoring husband. He plays the
guitar and used to tour as a folk-rock musician
Agato Terranova (55-60)is the most enigmatic of the bunch, very inscrutable and may very well be
part of the mob. It behooves him to let Eleanora, his “Norina” to take center
stage—that way less attention is paid to him.
Rita Avalon (50s) is from the old
neighborhood. She has a history with the much younger Domenic . She is very
devoted to her surviving foster son Tommy and wants to help him “rise up.” She
has her eye on Mike Sheehan and, therefore, something of a foil for Anna.
Gaetano Fontana (43-50) Anna’s fraternal
twin and Nick’s best friend is an artistic soul who is also an executive chef.
He almost has celebrity status as the original “star” of the restaurant his
disappearance and/or possible death is the trigger for the plot.
Marco Terranova (47) is a generally happy and caring person, more devoted
to her former sister-in-law than her own brother. She loves a good time, she is
also caring and wise. Her catch phrase is ‘una calatt’ i.e. tutto in
una calata (down the hatch). Her
secret: she fears her husband may have mob ties.
Enrico “Harry” Terranova: 25.
Italian-American.Recently deployed to the Middle
East and now back home. He is his mother’s pride and joy and
confounds his father, Agato. Heis brooding but best friend to his more
expansive cousin, Domenic.
Filomena DeMarco: 75. Old
school South Philly matron, somewhat demented. She drinks and smokes. Something
of a Greek chorus. A bit of comic relief now and then.
Jacob Scaletta (45) is for all intents and
purposes a good priest who teaches at the local high school. He is a powerful,
athletic man with a wrestling obsession and an erotic asphyxiation fetish. He
is in love with Marc. The combination of all of the above does him in.
Joe “Jungle Joe” Avalon
(deceased) is a contemporary of Marc’s. He was brought up by Rita. He worked
for Agato. He is a swarthy tough guy, whose life and death touch more than one
Lorenzo Festa (6) is Valerie’s son, curly
headed tyke who, like his mother, is Italian and Black. He is smart and
something of a handful. The revelation of his paternity is pivotal for this
character driven story.
Italians are the spice of life and while not everyone in CenterCity
is Italian, it is Anna and family who are the nucleus and set the stage. The
history of the Fontana-De Marcos and their network of friends and family is at
the center of the story. It will provide ample opportunity for back story.
Where in the world is Gaetano Fontana? Is he really dead? The answer to that
question and other unresolved secrets provide a backdrop for the ensuing
character driven story. “A bottle of red, a bottle of white, it all depends upon
your appetite. I’ll meet you any time you want in our Italian restaurant.”
(Billy Joel). The tapestry of the diversity of Philadelphia culture is the backdrop for our
This passionate world will draw you into a complex yet endearing group
of identifiable people dealing with such issues as interpersonal relationships,
the hypocrisy of organized religion, gay story lines and a touch of the
mob. Anna Fontana is a South Philly girl
moved uptown to Center City and Rittenhouse Square. She wants to maintain the
upward mobility of her family. Anna
wants to maintain control over events and things, even those over which she has
no control. While she likes to run the show, she loves her family, even those
who are no longer around.
In the long history of the development of Center City there existed idea of pitching it to ABC and SoapNet with Frank Valentini as the Executive Producer. Agnes Nixon's creations, All My Children and One Life to Live were based in a fictional suburban Philadelphia where the inhabitants were often going to Center City, which is what Philadelphians call their downtown area.
The critical success of General Hospital's Nightshift was the inspiration for the idea. In an earlier incarnation Center City was called Between Two Rivers. We decided to draw on the history of the wonderful characters in Pine Valley and Llanview and have them crossover to interact with the Fontana-De Marcos and other core families who live in a fictional Philadelphia.
It's unfortunate that it looks like Agnes Nixon's "stories" will be no more even in their Prospect Park forms. SoapNet, too, will be going away permanently at the end of December. We believe there is a strong, solid market for storytelling with a long story arc. While Center City is not precisely a Soap Opera in the sense of Daytime TV's "stories" it is a serial drama with a long story arc and rich back story. We're convinced there is a place for it and we continue to pitch it where we think appropriate and continue to look for "names" to attach to it. The biggest hurdles seem to be to get the right people to look at the solid pilot script and the unique story behind it.
It could also be something of a mini-series in the vein of NBC's Dracula, i.e. a series extending for ten episodes or so. The Bible is complete in the sense that we know exactly where this story is going.
The center of the action is an Italian restaurant in Rittenhouse Square. A divorced Sicilian American mother of two grown sons struggles with the disappearance of her fraternal twin and co-owner of the restaurant she now runs to keep the family legacy alive.There is a diverse cast of characters depicting the tapestry of the Philadelphia ethnic landscape. In addition to the Italian matriarch, Anna--we had fond hopes to get Annabella Sciorra involved--there is a strong Black matriarch in the person of Marlena Festa.
Our stage readings have been memorable. General Hospital's Lisa LoCicero brought Anna to life at West Hollywood's Celebration Theatre last Spring.
Our hope is to bring a "name" into the fold, especially in the characters of Anna, Marlena, Nick and Gaetano. We have some exceptional talent attached to some of the other roles. Actors love it: "I just finished Center City and I’m really impressed. Your dialogue is real and witty and often moving– it rolls off an actor's tongue. On a personal level, its so refreshing to a read an authentic story about a piece of my beloved hometown … you have juicy, interesting, three dimensional characters living in a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story with me." ~ actor/playwright Mark Borkowski (Boardwalk Empire)
Contact: papag at center-city.net
Gay, South Philly Life in Spotlight
by Gary M. Kramer (Photos: Scott Drake)
South Philly native Giovanni Vitacolonna is on the path to realizing his dream of creating TV series “Center City” — about an Italian family in Philadelphia.
The project, which began as a satire of both gay life and life in South Philly as a serial for now-defunct Au Courant, concerns Anna Fontana, owner of Gaetano’s, an Italian Market restaurant that has moved to Rittenhouse Square. Her two sons are Domenic, who works in the restaurant, and Marc, a friar-priest who left the priesthood and now works alongside his brother.
Eight episodes are written, and last weekend, Vitacolonna staged a reading of the pilot episode of his script at the Republican Club in Port Richmond. Richie Nuzzolese read Domenic, David Moretti performed the role of Marc and Colton Ford appeared as Father Jacob. Other actors who auditioned — Danny Donnelly [who is now attached in the role of Tommy, the former rent boy] and Daphne DiCinto as Valerie. Connie Romano read the part of Anna, the matriarch.
“Marc is the most autobiographical for me,” Vitacolonna said in an interview. “He comes from my life as a Franciscan friar and goes through what I went through in my coming-out process as a seminarian.” The writer acknowledged that the struggles Marc and Jacob have in Center City were inspired by his own experiences.
“Jacob is a gay priest, but he considers himself a good priest. I know people like this who do not see the hypocrisy,” he said. The writer cast Ford in the role, he said, “because he is such a gay sex symbol.” He also effused about Moretti, “David is very intelligent, articulate and unashamed of his gayness. He brings a lot of nuance to the role that someone who wasn’t gay couldn’t.”
At the Republican Club, Vitacolonna stroked his beard in a fatherly manner as various actors auditioned in cold readings [seeing the script for the first time].
Donnelly is perfect as Tommy and holds his own against Moretti in their early scene. Romano is engaging as Anna, but repeatedly flubs the name “Gaetano” to everyone’s amusement. During the read-through, the performers crack jokes and ad-lib, creating a warm, genial effect, not unlike the feeling one gets from the script. Nuzzolese kisses Daphne Di Cinto, the actor playing Valerie, his character’s fiancé, but Ford and Moretti resist a lip-lock (much to Vitacolonna’s mock disappointment) in their scene.
Ford gave his reading an unexpectedly soulful tone, while Moretti excelled in his monologue — a sermon about how the church considers and/or oppresses gay people. Nuzzolese exhibited a nice camaraderie with Romano, who plays his mother, as well as with , his character’s brother.
Ford said he was drawn to the character of Father Jacob in part because “ there was a darkness and edge” he wanted to explore. While Ford has acted (with Moretti) in the TV series The Lair, he is foremost a singer. His new CD, The Way I Am, is expected out next month.
“It’s probably my most mainstream, commercial, broad-based album,” he said. But the musician said acting is a different way to express his creativity, which is why he enjoys having the opportunity to do a series like Center City.
Moretti is also excited by what the series can offer him. “The character is not about being gay, but his family struggles and identity struggles and things from his past and future,” he said. “He’s more complex than just ‘the gay guy.’” Making a pilot presentation in Philly, he added, can be beneficial for getting attention from someone who might greenlight the series, although he hopes the show could become a web series that will get picked up by a network. Vitacolonna is hoping for a cable station.
While in Philadelphia, Moretti and Nuzzolese played pool at a meet-and-greet with the actors at The Bike Stop the night before the table reading. “David and I have that brotherly link already — which is great because you sometimes have a little agita when you don’t have that connection,” Nuzzolese said.The model-turned-actor, who turned heads with his abs in the Katy Perry video for “Last Fright Night,” is excited about performing in a series that is close to his heart. “The script matches me, it’s so Italian!” he said. “Giovanni did a great job in how natural he made the characters speak.”
And hopefully audiences will get an opportunity to hear and see “Center City.” While the show is in its initial stages, the table reading showed promise, and
those in attendance left hungry for more.
Follow Gary M. Kramer on Twitter at @garymkramer.