South Philly natives making mob comedy

South Philly natives Sal Mazzotta (left) and Vince Minniti in character for an upcoming short called The Pasta & Cheech Crew. Contributed photo.
South Philly natives Sal Mazzotta (left) and Vince Minniti in character for an upcoming short called The Pasta & Cheech Crew. Contributed photo.

Sal Mazzotta and Vince Minniti are hoping for an offer they can’t refuse. 

The South Philly friends and filmmakers are diving into a new comedy film project that Mazzotta describes as “The Three Stooges meets The Godfather.” It’s based on a few characters that Minniti dreamed up and guided by Mazzotta’s lengthy cinematic experience. They are planning on filming a short film to present at film festivals with the hopes of transforming it into something much bigger down the line.

It all started as Minniti would create funny characters while joking around with his buddies. 

“I thought this character that Vinny is doing is actually pretty funny,” said Mazzotta, who grew up near 12th and Mifflin streets before moving out to Los Angeles. “Then we started talking and thinking maybe he has something here. Then we created more characters.”

The Pasta & Cheech Crew was born.

The synopsis of the project is described as “A group of monsters led by old school mob captain Luca, that is the last of what’s left in the local mafia crime family. They try to not only earn a buck, but to also gain some measure of respect in spite of its bumbling members, Cheech, Aldo and the Cretino brothers. Luca is tasked with leading and shaping up this team of dysfunctional, un-wiseguys while at the same time fending off incursions from other crime families, particularly New York.”

Minniti said it was something he cooked up in his leisure time to blow off steam.

“I just needed something to relieve my stress,” said Minniti, who grew up in Bella Vista. “So I started playing around with these little skits and I started to realize the value behind social media. I was trying to get Sal involved and we came up with these goofy characters and it worked. Sal has an eye for this stuff and a few people out in L.A. that he’s friendly with thought we might have something serious. That encouraged us to start the Indiegogo campaign.” 

The Pasta & Cheech Crew will originate as a “short,” which is typically less than 40 minutes. This project figures to be somewhere in the eight- to 15-minute range with an intention to go much broader in the future. 

A fundraising campaign is hoping to raise $25,000 to put things in motion. Minniti and Mazzotta said they have a private investor willing to match that fundraising goal.

“Normally, to do what we’re doing, you need about $100,000,” Mazzotta said. “But I’m calling in a lot of favors. $25,000 isn’t a lot of money but we’ll get it done. It’ll look fantastic.”

The Pasta & Cheech Crew cast from left: Freddie Ganno, Leo Procopio, Sal Mazzotta, Vince Minniti and Joe Procopio. Contributed photo

Known in movie circles as “Sal the Actor,” Mazzotta’s resume includes acting credits in the Unknown Trilogy, Animal Factory and Jersey Justice. He also has writing and producing experience in films such as Mafioso: The Father, the Son and The Evil Within.

Mazzotta has been friends with Minniti for more than 22 years and he believes his buddy’s first venture into filmmaking has some legs.

“For $50,000, I’m going to deliver a quarter-million short that people are going to say, wow, I want to see this movie,” Mazzotta said. “Then it will be much easier for us to get the funds for a full-length feature. The Pasta & Cheech Crew, once we write the real script for it, it will be a funny, funny movie. It’ll open up a lot of eyes.”

Minniti related it to an older style but with modern laughs.

“The concept is more like an ‘80s-type comedy like Wise Guys with Joe Piscopo and Danny DeVito,” Minniti said. “Something along those lines, but no vulgarity. We’re keeping it clean and fun and we’re going to be doing it locally.”

That means in the near future, South Philly will be the backdrop of their project.

“Sal has done a lot of movies here and big shows and get-togethers,” Minniti said. “He has a pretty large footprint. I’m a newcomer. This is my debut. Sal is experienced but we complement each other.”

The short is still in pre-production and the crew figures it will start filming sometime early next year. Multiple levels of donations and sponsor opportunities are available with all kinds of perks, including digital copies of the film, Pasta & Cheech Crew hats or even credits in the film. Visit the film’s fundraising page at–2#/.

The fundraising campaign ends on Oct. 22.