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Second act for Vegas Diner: Jewel of Bensonhurst shines in new mob drama • Brooklyn Paper

Second act for Vegas Diner: Jewel of Bensonhurst shines in new mob drama

Back to Brooklyn: Actor William DeMeo, who grew up in Gravesend, stars in the new ’80s mob-drama “The Neighborhood,” which filmed at the recently shuttered Vegas Diner on June 29.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

Now that’s a send-off!

The recently shuttered Vegas Diner got a starring role in scenes of the upcoming ’80s-set mob drama “The Neighborhood” on June 29. The series has been filming at locations across Brooklyn over the last couple of weeks, but the diner goes way back with the show’s star, Gravesend-native William DeMeo, who frequented the joint growing up, he said.

“It’s amazing to be back here,” said DeMeo, who was a big fan of the diner’s disco fries smothered in mozzarella cheese and gravy. “I used to come here all the time growing up. It’s terrible that it closed, but it’s like a sign from God because closing it to film while it was open would have been impossible, so we’re able to include a bit more of the neighborhood — it’s quintessential Brooklyn.”

The series tracks DeMeo’s character, Benny Zerletta, whom he calls a “soldier” in a powerful crime family, who grapples with whether to fulfill his mother’s dying wish and go straight, or continue to do the mob’s bidding. But the screenplay puts a new spin on the standard conflicted-mafioso narrative, said the leading man, who won a Best Actor Award from the New York Independent International Film Festival for his lead role in the 2000 film “Wannabes.”

“What separates it is religion is a big factor,” said DeMeo. “There are dealings between the Italians and the Hasidic Jews, so you have elements of Bensonhurst and Borough Park — I think we’re giving a different look at things.”

Series shoots were located throughout Southern Brooklyn and beyond, including Romanoff Restaurant in Coney Island, La Trattoria Italiana in Sheepshead Bay, and Benson Scrap Metal in Gowanus.

The Vegas Diner was dressed with fresh pastries on the counter, booths souped-up with silverware, and a parking lot packed with ’80s cruisers — including DeMeo’s own black Grand National, which doubles as his character’s car.

The erstwhile neighborhood staple is the backdrop for a pair of scenes: one where Zerletta confesses his feelings to the woman he loves, and another where some sort of altercation takes place, according to DeMeo.

And one of the joint’s owners couldn’t be prouder of the diner’s role.

“I’m very proud that we’re a part of this,” said James Vlamis, one of four co-owners who opened the diner back in 1982. “It’s like it’s a character in the show now.”

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.
Cast of characters: William DeMeo stars in “The Neighborhood” and Natalie Guercio, who was on the 2015-season of “Mob Wives,” is featured in an episode.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

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