Mention of Rosanna Scotto’s name conjures smiles on the faces of viewers. For over two decades, Ms. Scotto has been a fixture of broadcast news. In our exclusive interview, Rosanna tells New York Resident how she made it, what it means to be a New Yorker and how she balances work, home and her family’s famous restaurant. Having graciously invited us into her Fox 5 office which she shares with Ernie Anastos, Ms. Scotto got down to business answering our questions with wit, charm and poise.
New York Resident (NYR): I’d just like to start by thanking you for this opportunity; and as an Italian-American myself; it is wonderful to see such a strong Italian woman on television every morning.
Rosanna Scotto (RS): Thank you. Not too strong, I hope! Women have to walk a very precarious line, you have to be strong, but not too strong – sometimes knowing me, I go over the line, but that’s what makes the show great!
NYR: The name of our magazine is NY Resident. In that vein, what about you makes you a New Yorker?
RS: I was born in Brooklyn, was raised their and eventually moved into the “city”. But I think it’s the attitude that makes you a New Yorker; and it’s engrained in you – you can survive and brush off anything. You’re not that impressed if you’re walking next to Brad Pitt – who cares? And then you quote Larry David. On an episode of his, he talked about “up streaming” other people in trying to catch a cab.
The other day, this is a true story, I’m looking for a taxi and I look over to my right and there is the actress Christine Lahti, who is also looking for a cab, and she was there before me – I saw her as I was walking down the block. So, I said: “oh jeez, what am I going to do? I’ll be up streaming”. Anyway, she sees me and crosses the street and walks in front of me. So I figured I’d pull a Larry David and said: “no up streaming allowed”. I was only kidding, but she didn’t get it and yelled back: “I’m not up streaming”!! I felt bad afterwards and was looking for her on Twitter to let her know I was only joking.
I think that incident illustrates what it means to be a true New Yorker. And then of course I have the Brooklyn accent, which I still have a little and it comes out when I’m tired.
NYR: Was it hard to get rid of the accent?
RS: Well, yes. All my employers sent me to a speech coach, to try to lose the accent. I guess I cleaned it up a bit, but it’s still there. Finally, at one point, they realized that’s what separates me from everyone else. I’m in the New York market, why are you really trying to get rid of it?
NYR: What section of the city do you live, what do you like most about it and why are you there?
RS: I am a resident of the Upper East Side and I remember your magazine; I remember when it was a newspaper. Now you’re all fancy, schmancy.
I’m on the Upper East Side for two reasons. First, the kids went to school on the UES and second, I work here. I always worked unusual hours. Whether I worked the night shift which was from 3pm to 10pm or now I’m here at 5am – I always wanted to be close to work so that I could get back and forth to the house for the kids or their schools.
NYR: The kids are a little older now?
RS: Ok, fine. Rub it in! My daughter just graduated college – she’s ready to move out and she just got a paying job and thank God is about to get off the payroll! And my son is a senior in high school.
NYR: So you’ll have empty nest syndrome?
RS: Yes, we’ll have empty nest syndrome, but we have a dog.
NYR: What kind of dog?
RS: She’s a cockapoo. She’s very sweet. My husband is in love with the dog. My kids always say he loves the dog more than he loves them. I don’t think it’s true, but it comes close. Her name is LuLu, named after the two men of my life, my husband and my son – both named Lou.
NYR: Can you tell us some of the encouraging remarks or comments you’ve heard from New Yorkers?
RS: I have to say, I’m so fortunate. People always say the nicest things; and people appreciate that I am a born and bred New Yorker who tries to bring my experience, but also the fact that I am vested in this community and I bring my love of this town to my job every day. I am basically their representative on Fox 5. I am their community activist on TV. I always get positive reinforcement.
NYR: How do you give back to New York? Any charities or foundations?
RS: Yes, one of them I’ve actually been with for probably over twenty years. I started when I was still living in Brooklyn. The name of the organization is Heart Share Human Services and they deal with everything from autistic kids to foster kids to young adults who have learning challenges. I am now serving on their board, but I started off just volunteering. Now, I’m trying to get awareness out on their good works and trying to help them raise money so they can continue to do the good that they are doing.
Another charity that I’m involved with and on the board of is called After School All Stars. It’s a great organization. They started in California and now have outposts in our area. Basically, it gives kids a place to go after school ends. As a mother, I know things can happen between 3pm and 6pm before many parents get home. This organization not only helps kids focus in and help them with their homework, but they also do sports and they learn respect. It really is a wonderful organization.
NYR: You are quite well known for your fabulous parties in the Hamptons, do you do anything like that in the city?
RS: No, I don’t too many in the city. I throw most in the Hamptons because I love the barbecue and there is space. Out there you can invite 10 -15 people. My husband actually loves doing the grilling. My sister and I love making the sides and a great big pasta – you can make it room temperature. It’s really easy, casual and fun. In the city –it’s too much – you have to have help. I feel it’s too formal.
NYR: You come from a well-respected restaurateur family, how has that shaped you? How involved in Fresco by Scotto are you? Is it day to day or bigger picture?
RS: The restaurant started like this. My brothers were in California, they had a place out there. My parents went out there; they thought it was just craziness going on. My mother asked the boys, what would it take for you to come back? They said a restaurant. My mother had no idea what that would entail. She mortgaged the house in Brooklyn, because she found out how much it would cost to open up – she said it was going to be a family business.
I helped out, my sister Elena left her job in fashion; my brother Anthony was the only one with restaurant experience. We all jumped in, we made it a family business. I’m there regularly, at least two to three times a week. I work on the bigger picture, for the restaurant and for the family. We are trying to take the restaurant into 2012, maybe with some new outposts in the area.
It is great fun, my son loves to work in the kitchen; he’s thinking maybe this is something he wants to do later down the road. It’s a wonderful place because you know where to find us. There is always at least one Scotto at Fresco by Scotto, holding down the fort.
NYR: On another note, it’s quite difficult to break into broadcast journalism; can you tell us how you did it?
RS: I did it the old fashion way. I graduated college and I moved to Atlanta and took a low paying job. This is a funny story, when I was in college; I wanted to break into the business and there was a woman who was on WABC 7, who was THE person in broadcast news, it was Rose Ann Scamardella, the original ‘Roseanne Roseannadanna’ (from Saturday Night Live). She was friends with my family, a Brooklyn girl; her name was similar and I wanted to follow in her footsteps. And I asked her: “How do I break into the business”? She said: well I really didn’t go about it like everyone did. Come into the station and I’ll introduce you to someone who did it the way most people do”. The person was Ernie Anastos, and Ernie said you have to start small; go to a non-union shop; make your mistakes and make your way back to New York.
That’s exactly what I did and I worked my way back here. My first job in the city was with Regis Philbin, when he started here in New York, I was his segment producer and then once a week I was doing family reports for the show. Subsequently, I begged the Eyewitness News News Director to put me on the news on the weekends when someone called out sick and that happened regularly and before you know it, I was working there. Three years later I was fired and have been at Fox ever since.
NYR: Are you still friends with Regis?
RS: I am. In fact, we had Regis on the show not too long ago after he left his morning hours. He DID NOT retire, he left his morning show, and he’s come into the restaurant a bunch of times. He has been a wonderful friend over the years and he’s taken me under his wing and really helped me out. For that, I thank him and know whatever he does, he will be a success.
NYR: Any Oscar predictions?
RS: I’m still in the process at looking at some of them. Saw My Week with Marilyn, loved it. I very much want to go see The Artist. Margin Call, I fell asleep during a part of it – the middle part, I took a winter’s nap.
NYR: Valentine’s Day, any plans?
RS: My husband is a saint. Everybody calls him St. Louie, and what we will do, I’m not sure. He usually plans something. We are married twenty-five years – I know him – he’ll do something nice. But most importantly, I love him and he loves me.