July, 2012 – Paul Castronovo, a Florida Treasure

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Cultural Corner

 

Paul Castronovo of the Paul & Young Ron Show, a Florida Treasure

 

By Marla E. Schwartz

 

You never know what you’re going to get when you listen to talk radio in Southeast Floridathe good, the bad and the ugly. Fortunately, with Paul Castronovo from the “Paul & Young Ron Show,” (www.paulandyoungron.com) you get the best of the best. This Lighthouse Point resident’s presence has been a staple of morning radio for Miami/Fort Lauderdale audiences for over 22-years – first in the heyday of WSHE 103.5 FM, then 94.9 Zeta Rocks, and for the past eight years on Big 105.9 FM. The show is also heard on Clear Channel stations Real Radio 94.3 FM and 101.7 FM in West Palm Beach and on the Treasure Coast and on Sun 103.1 in Key Largo and 99.5 FM in Key West. Thankfully, Paul’s more than two-decade success story has no end in sight, mostly because of his rapport with his long-time radio partner “Young” Ron Brewer.

 

There’s no doubt that Paul is one of the most refreshing voices around. He’s more than a local celebrity – he’s a Florida treasure. And he’s a guy’s guy. If you want to know what a real man is thinking – ladies – listen to this man on the radio! And gentlemen admire him so much that he’s emulated by all his male fans. This is not an easy feat but he does it with grace and humility. Honestly, he’s funny, down-to-earth, creative, and a real entrepreneur. He married the love of his life, Gina, in 1996 and their youngest son, AJ, has dreams of taking over the family winery business one day (more on this a bit later). His oldest son, Nic, attends the University of Florida and Paul, a UF graduate, is, of course, an avid Gator football fan. This enthusiastic boater and fisherman is someone who is easy to talk to – perhaps this is why his radio show has been such a great sensation. Okay, we’ll give Ron some credit. But Paul’s easy-going, friendly approach to life is infectious and this is why he has so many fans and why everyone wants to be his friend.

Paul Castronovo showing his brand of wine. Photo: Castronovo Vineyards.
Paul Castronovo showing his brand of wine. Photo: Castronovo Vineyards.

 

But most important of all, it’s strange how life can completely change in an instant when you’re not even looking for a different path to take. And this is what happened to Paul and his family. It was after his wife’s chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer when these two Italian-Americans decided to vacation in Italy. It was due to a chance encounter during this get-away when this Pinot Noir girl and Cabernet loving man came up with an idea to purchase their very own vineyard and create their own wine label. It was during this time-period when Castronovo Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, a blend produced in the Abruzzo region of Italy was born.

 

Collage of Paul Castronovo Pictures. By Marla E. Schwartz.
Starting from TOP left to right and wrapping around: Paul Castronovo with Guy Fieri with Paul’s wine Castronovo Montepulciano D’Abruzzo; Paul in Italy holding grapes that will go into making his wine; Paul and his wife Gina Castronovo in Venice; Paul, Gina & their son AJ in Italy; Celebrating the partnership with the Galasso family in Abruzzo; Nadia G., Paul, Geoffrey Zakarian, Ralph Pagano; Paul and his partners at their winery in Italy; Guy Fieri, Lisette Gonzalez (in background) and Paul; Castronovo Vineyards Speed Boat; Paul, Bruce Hunter & his wife Brenda, Eros Spinozzi and Gina; Castronovo’s at Trevi Foundation; Guy Fieri, Emeril Lagasse, Paul and “Young” Ron Brewer; AJ tastes the grapes before they’re made into wine; Gina & AJ in Rome; Paul’s fans: Delray Beach residents Michael & Hollie Hawn with an autographed bottle of his red wine (image by Marla E. Schwartz); AJ & Gina enjoying a meal in Italy.

 

 

Paul recently agreed to a Q & A session about his radio career, his family, his entree into the wine business and many other things for us.

 

Marla E. Schwartz: How did your career begin?

Paul Castronovo: I wanted to be on Saturday Night Live, but they didn’t offer that at the University of Florida. When I met my upstairs neighbor who happened to be a fellow broadcasting student, and he took me to the college radio station, I was hooked. After a few stints around the country, Miami, Orlando, Nashville and Birmingham, I was ready to get back to Florida and thankfully, Ron was working at my old station, WSHE and I talked the program director into hiring me and putting the two of us together. At one crazy dinner, Ron and I had the room in tears and that was the genesis of the show.

 

MES: Now that your show is on 94.3 in addition to BIG 105.9 making it part of “The Best of Real Radio” seems like a perfect fit. How do you feel about it?

PC: I resisted the move at first, because we’d always been on Rock radio, but when you think about the heritage of the Love Doc’s in the market and the complete domination of the market by those dudes, how could we not make the move? It’s a great radio family, except that Josh Cohen, who I have a real problem with (he’ll be in therapy after reading this, as we’re great friends).

 

MES: Do you have a current and/or most memorable caller?

PC: When it comes to guests, I have really enjoyed conversations with comedians over the years; in fact I spoke with a very candid and cool Will Ferrell about his new flick just recently. Other highlights: Tom Cruise calling from Australia, joking around with Hillary Clinton, trading lines from “The Godfather” with Robert Duvall, becoming friends with Little Steven from the Springsteen’s E Street Band, and getting invited to Lisa Lampanelli’s wedding. Not bad for a kid from Brooklyn.

 

MES: Do you currently consider yourself a shock jock? I mean, I don’t consider you a shock jock – but I’ve heard you referred to by this label, why do you think this is so?

PC: I hate that shock jock moniker more than anything else. Howard Stern, sure…strippers, constant sex talk, shock appeal, yeah. Well, I competed with Howard for 15 years and the last thing I ever wanted to do was out-Howard, Howard. So we chose to just be a funny morning show. In no way am I knocking Stern’s success, but the imitators, Bubba the Love Sponge, Lex and Terry, that kind of radio just doesn’t appeal to me. I think that if you were a guy morning show on a rock radio station, you were perceived as shock jocks. Thanks for asking!

 

MES: When did Dave Barry call you for the first time? Have you known each other for awhile?

PC: Dave Barry first called our show, probably in 1990; our first year and we really hit it off. He told me that as famous as he’d become, the first time his son Rob recognized it was after he appeared with us. Since then, I’ve performed numerous times with his band, the Rock Bottom Remainders and danced inside a Neiman Marcus store with him and his wife. That’s another story.

 

MES: Do you remember who your first comedian was that you had on-air and how did that segment go? PC: That’s an impossible question. But I can tell you that the worst we ever had was Aries Spears from Mad TV. I asked him to do a few impressions, he said that “he wasn’t my trained monkey and walked out” After he left, we said his CD wasn’t that funny anyway…ten minutes later he busted into the room and threatened to fight us. An all-time classic.

 

MES: Why is it important to you to promote the work of comedians, chefs and musicians on your show?

PC: I just try to target things that I think will be entertaining and interesting to people in our target demographic. People love the Food Network, people love to laugh and people love music. It’s easy.

 

MES: How did you meet Chef Ralph Pagano and when did you get the idea to put him on your show?

PC: He and I did a TV show together and hit it off, I loved his accent, I love his cooking and I love his sense of humor, plus he carries my wine at Ten Palms! (Ten Palms Restaurant is located in Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, FL).

 

MES: I also enjoy listening to Kelly Craig (TV personality). I mean – I enjoy all the talent on your program, but it is nice having a woman’s perspective on your show. How did you meet Kelly and when did you decide that you wanted her on the show and how did you approach her about it?

PC: Kelly and I started in the market about the same time. She was a TV news anchor and became famous in Miami with her round the clock coverage of Hurricane Andrew with Bryan Norcross. During an interview on the phone shortly thereafter, Ron and I inadvertently insulted her and she hung up on us. Fast forward about a decade and we ran into each other at a charity event and hit it off. I began inviting her into the studio and realized she was hilarious and a star. She’s only the second woman to ever work on our show.

 

MES: You do so much for the community.

PC: Ron and I have been involved with “Feeding South Florida” for nearly 20 years (formerly the Daily Bread Food Bank) and each year have raised over 1 million pounds of food. We’re very proud of this. I’m also co-chairman of the Miami Dolphins Foundation, Fins Weekend – a fishing and golf weekend that raises money for various charities; the Miami Dolphin Ride DCC for cancer (ridedcc.com), and if we can help, anybody else who asks!

 

Now … let’s switch to some wine questions.

 

MES: Can you tell the story of how Castronovo Vineyards came to be?

PC: On a visit to Italy, while sitting at a Trattoria, the man next to us noticed

Paul with Young Ron, "Meatballs & Martinis 2011." Photo: Stu Opperman, Impact Players.
Paul with Young Ron, "Meatballs & Martinis 2011." Photo: Stu Opperman, Impact Players.

 us struggling with the wine menu. My wife and I were wine fans, but mostly California, he says in his Italian accent, “Let me helpa you witha the Italian Wine Choice”. We ended up tasting everything in the house, and learning that this man, Eros exported wine to the U.S. We became fast friends and he took us to a winery the next day, where the family, who thought a major U.S. celebrity was visiting their winery was coming. They rolled out the red carpet and the whole family dined with us. The Grandma cooked, we ate olives from their trees, cheese from their sheep, homemade pasta and tasted all their wines. At one point, I said, “I sure would like to have your wine in the States.” That’s how it began.

 

MES: Can you please tell me why the Castronovo Montepulciano D’Abruzzo stands out among other wines?

PC: Flavor and value. I know plenty of people that can go out and spend $100 on a bottle of wine, I’ve been known to do that as well, but in Italy…it just is not done. I want my friends and fans to be able to drink a bottle of wine that costs 15 bucks with a pizza on a Tuesday night, and A) enjoy the bottle, and B) not break the bank. I have done blind bottle taste tests with expensive bottles of wine, and we’ve hung right in there. I also think that Montepulciano D’Abruzzo has characteristics of the most popular American wines, and falls somewhere between a Pinot Noir and a big Cab.

 

MES: Do you only sell red wine & what type of food goes well with your wine?

PC: We just started with red wine, but at our vineyard in Abruzzo, we grow all sorts of varietals and our white wine, a Pecorino (same name as the cheese) has arrived in the states and is showing up on menus and shelves! I really love our wine with the antipasto course. Cheeses, cured meats, olives. That’s a great start. Move on to a spicy pasta dish, like penne arrabiata and you’ve got a home run. Any one of the Casa D’Angelo restaurants will make it for you!

 

MES: How did you become involved with Miami-based importer Shaw Ross Wines?

PC: This is the weird part of the story; upon my flight home I sat next to a man who turned out to be Bruce Hunter, the President of Shaw Ross Importers. I told him my story, the next thing you know the family is flying to the States, we have dinner at Anthony’s Runway 84 and a partnership was born.

 

MES: Congratulations on having a pizza named after you and Ron at Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza. What is the name of this pizza and what is on it? Does this restaurant also sell your wine?

PC: It’s meatballs, sausage, hot or sweet peppers and ricotta cheese, I’m proud to say it’s their best seller and goes perfect with our wine, which is sold at all Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza stores and Anthony’s Runway 84.

 

MES: Do any other restaurants or grocery stores in Florida sell your wine?

PC: Crown Wine & Spirits, Total Wine, Doris’s Market, lots of markets. The best way to find the wine is via our website, castronovovineyards.com click on find our wine, and put in your zip code. We’re now also available in all Publix stores, and if you don’t happen to see it on the shelves, simply ask the manager and they’ll make sure you get it.

 

MES: When I first sampled your wine Montepulciano D’Abruzzo at a wine-tasting at Doris’ Market in Boca Raton, I thought it was spectacular… how did you come about creating this particular blend?

PC: The people that I partnered with in Italy grow these grapes and sell them all over Italy. It’s a hugely popular wine. The way my deal is worked out, we own a part of the land, but they handle the wine making and bottling. I know what I like, and we thought that would be the perfect wine to introduce.

 

MES: I understand that chef Michelle Bernstein carries your wine label at her various restaurants and that you were on her show PBS Check, Please! South Florida Tasting Tour … did you enjoy being on her show and what did you like the most about it? Is this something that you’ll consider doing again in the future?

PC: Michelle and I have been friends for years, not only because of her cooking, and the radio, TV thing, but we have mutual friends and have become friends socially as well. She’s a South Florida treasure and a delight to be around, they’ve asked me to host an upcoming show once again, so why not?

 

MES: How many years has the legendary Paul & Young Ron Celebrity Cook-off been taking place at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival? It’s so much fun, and I encourage people to watch this podcast and other podcasts that can be found on your website.

PC: It started out with a conversation, or an argument as to who was the better cook. I argued that all I needed was a cooktop and a sauté pan, Ron said he could crush me with a grill. Here we are 15 years later and we’re cooking with Emeril Lagasse and Guy Fieri!

 

MES: Do you travel to Italy a lot?

PC: We go about once a year. I love Rome, the people, the energy, the history. We went to Sicily in June for a few nights, that’s where our family is from…I’m really looking forward to that as well as some relaxing days on the Amalfi Coast. Plus I get to visit my grapes! {As a side note: Paul’s family is from Agrigento in Sicily, although there is a town in Sicily named Castronovo.)

 

MES: When did you come to Florida and why did you stay?

PC: I was born in Brooklyn, NY, lived in Long Island and moved to South Florida in 1971 and really embraced the South Florida lifestyle. I grew up in Palm Beach County and attended Lake Worth High School. I always thought my career would take me to LA, but being an avid fisherman and diver, it’s been great spending the majority of my career in my hometown.

 

MES: How many years have you lived in Lighthouse Point and why did you decide to move to this beautiful community?

PC: I first visited LHP in 1971 when we moved to Florida from NY. We had friends in the neighborhood, and I was fascinated that the kids could fish in their backyard canals. Years later when looking for a home, I said…I have to look, and sure enough, we never left. The neighbors are great, my son has a million friends and we couldn’t be happier.

 

MES: Can you tell me a bit about your boating and fishing excursions?

PC: I’ve been fishing the ocean as long as I’ve lived here, and spend as much time as I can on the water. As a member of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation board of directors, I’m sensitive to sustainable seafood, and catch and release all billfish as well as promote ocean conservation wherever I can. That being said, there’s nothing I like better than going off shore looking for mahi mahi and bringing one or two home and grilling them up! I’ve fished the Bahamas, Guatemala, and Panama as well. I guess you can say it’s an expensive hobby!

 

Considering the fact that Paul’s life is practically an open book because he makes his living on the radio, the fact of the matter is that this busy man with a career that’s always keeping him on the go hasn’t stopped him from venturing into another business altogether; this is pretty darn impressive. The “Paul & Young Ron Show” can be heard weekdays from 6:00-10:00 AM. In addition to showcasing the talents of Kelly Craig and Ralph Pagano, the program also features regulars Dave LaMont (sportscaster), Ron Magill (zookeeper), Billy Corben (filmmaker), and executive producer Steve Harmon. And all of these people, including the infamous “Young” Ron Brewer are fascinating and very entertaining individuals – all adding to the show’s success. And fans: be aware that Paul is looking for many more people to follow him on twitter, so let’s show him how much we care and do it: @PaulCastronovo, @PaulandYoungRon and @Castronovowine.

 

You can also find more information by going to the Paul Castronovo Fan page on Facebook, Castronovo Vineyards on Facebook any of the following websites:

 

            big105.9.com

            wzzr.com

            paulandyoungron.com

            paulandyoungron.iheart.com

            castronovovineyards.com

*****

 

Marla E. SchwartzA Toledo, OH native, a graduate of Kent State, Marla E. Schwartz is a Senior Writer for Miami Living Magazine, a freelance writer for Lighthouse Point Magazine and the a cultural arts columnist for AroundWellington.com. Her photographs have appeared in these publications, in many Ohio periodicals, as well as in The Miami Herald, The Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and The Palm Beach Post. She has had numerous plays published and produced around the country. Her short play, America’s Working? was produced in Los Angeles at both the First Stage and the Lone Star Ensemble theater companies, in Florida at Lynn University and at an Off-Broadway playhouse in NYC. Her piece, The Lunch Time Café, was a finalist for the Heideman Award, Actors Theatre of Louisville. Please check out the re-prints of her interviews with authors Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson and Dexter novelist Jeff Lindsay in the October 2010 issue #2 and Chris Bohjalian in the April 2011 issue #3 of Duff Brenna’s ServingHouse: A Journal of Literary Arts at www.servinghousejournal.com. You can contact her at marlaschwartz@att.net.