Harlem to Hollywood — NYPD detective Sonny Grosso earns props at Scorsese’s “The Irishman” Premiere

Grosso’s Guys — Judge Torres, Music Impresario Ramone, Ranger Legend Rod Cilbert
Sonny Grosso & Billy Friedkin who directed his pal’s story into a 5-time Oscar winning classic
Sonny with two New York sports legends, Torre and Strahan
Blogger/author Ashley Jude Collie with his Italian “godfather” Sonny Grosso

“Rao’s was fascinating to us kids, there were all sorts of stories like the neighborhood ‘action’ guys who’d go there to eat. But Italian Harlem really was a family place where you could smell Sunday sauce, and where we kids played stickball in the street and watched wide-eyed at life going by. My childhood pal Eddie Torres once noted that Joe Rao had something in his car that he’d press and when he approached his garage, the door would open. So we used to sit in our beloved Jefferson Park in the bushes across the street from his house. We’d buy pretzels and popcorn, like we were going to the movies, and just wait. One day, I saw the garage door open up, and then suddenly Joe Rao drives down the block and pulls into the garage. To me it was like space travel — beam me up, Scotty! We didn’t know from remote controllers. When the garage door closed behind him, I ran around the corner shouting, ‘I’ve seen it, I’ve seen it!’ They’re going, “Yeah, bullshit!” And I’m trying to explain to my pals, ‘No, he had this thing, the door went up, he wasn’t even there.’”

Grosso and Torres outside Rao’s, across from their boyhood playground, Jefferson Park

“I told Jack about my mother’s Saturday ‘shopping’ trips in the neighborhood. She’d go out for two hours from eleven to one with a little apron on because she used to touch everything under the sun. When she came back, she knew who was pregnant, who was getting divorced, who went to jail, who was dating who, who had a fight. She had the scoop on everything because all the women would tell her exactly what’s what. Saturday was really for getting the news, for getting all the gossip to tell my father about. She was like a throwback Entertainment Weekly or TMZ correspondent, getting all the juicy stories! Jack laughed his head off and told me he could relate because we had things in common. He grew up in Asbury Park in New Jersey where my mother was raised. As a kid, he was also a big Yankees fan and a bleacher bum like me, watching with eyes wide open as our heroes like Joe DiMaggio performed their magic.”

Sonny took his beloved mom Lillian to Rao’s and Frankie “No” sang Under the Boardwalk
Sonny and Chrissy at Sonny’s Rao’s table

“Tommy says to Jack, ‘They’d get such a thrill to see you.’ Jack replies, ‘Sure, let’s go see them.’ Jack takes photos with them. Then Tommy’s grandmother says in her sweet Italian accent, ‘I’mma live in disa house eighty-six years! I go-a nowhere, except disa house. I never thought anything like a-dis could ever happen to me. I love-a you, Mista Nicholson! You-a my favorite actor.’ He kisses her, saying, ‘You can call me Jack.’ Afterwards, she phoned everybody under the sun about it. Although, she passed shortly after, Jack’s generosity left a lasting impression.”

Sonny with two more New York Sports legends, Girardi and Gilbert



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Ashley Jude Collie

Ashley Jude Collie


Award-winning journalist-author-blogger for Playboy, TO Star, Movie Entertainment, HuffPost, Hello Canada & my novel REJEX (Pulp Hero Press) is on Amazon.