The Palminteri’s were born to entertain. It’s no wonder, then, that their 21-year-old daughter, Gabriella, made her earthly debut in dramatic fashion: 3 weeks early on Christmas Day. “I remember lying in my hospital bed with Gabriella in my arms watching It’s A Wonderful Life,” recounts Gianna sentimentally, chatting with me in the Italian-style kitchen of her and Chazz’s sprawling Bedford estate. “The best Christmas gift in the world.”
Christmas has been the family’s favorite holiday since “forever,” says Gianna, whose impressive festive decor includes an animatronic Santa Claus, a charming collection of Nutcrackers, and four Christmas trees: a formal family tree, a tree for each of the kids, and a tree for Gianna’s mother, Rose, who passed in December of 2019. Rose’s tree is all white and covered in her personal ornaments, much of which is Lenox, while the kids' trees are sprinkled with childhood ornaments, from milestones to hand prints to school-made decor. I ask her if she’ll give Dante and Gabriella their ornaments when they have their own children. She laughs, “If they want them! They don’t like a lot of ‘stuff’ and I’m a tchotchkes gal.” The formal tree is adorned with fancy bulbs and photo ornaments made from the family’s Christmas cards, year after year. “There are over 20 years of family photos on that tree,” says Gianna wistfully. As a friend of the Palminteris for more than a decade, it’s at this moment I’m reminded that of all their accolades and achievements, their family is the accomplishment that Chazz and Gianna are most proud of.
We dive deeper into the subject of the decorations. “Decorating is therapeutic but I hate taking everything down,” laughs Gianna, noting that Italians are notorious for keeping their Christmas decor out until February. I imagine she just might. “Also, I have wreath envy,” she admits, telling me that every season, fashion designer Joseph Abboud has the best wreaths. “They’re gorgeous,” she says, “and I’ve asked him what his secret is and he won’t tell me!” Gianna laughs again. “I’m going to try to keep my wreath envy in check this year.”
Gianna is known for her parties, and her Christmas Cookie Swap is a favorite amongst her girlfriends. The Palminteri’s Ugly Sweater party is another holiday tradition, and is attended by an eclectic group of friends, everyone from Chazz’s childhood buddies to Hollywood actors. Gianna mentions that she’s also considering a fondue-style party this year, but isn’t sure because she’s allergic to cheese. “An Italian girl that’s allergic to cheese,” comments Chazz, walking into the kitchen, head shaking in comic dismay on Gianna’s behalf (psst - don’t miss his December 1st performance in Ridgefield). “It’s unfair,” she laughs, mentioning that she still gets their charcuterie board cheeses at their favorite cheese and bread shops in the Bronx. I ask Gianna what types of desserts she likes to make for parties or for Christmas. Every year, they celebrate Gabriella’s birthday with a three-tiered cake. She also makes a Bûche de Noël (“Martha Stewart’s is the best”) and a tiramisu recipe straight from Rome. “I miss my parents terribly, so I try to keep all of their traditions,” says Gianna, noting that she also wants to instill new traditions of her own, including the way that her family is involved in the community.
The Palminteris are supporters of animal rescue and the local foster care program, and their goal is to take on a larger role in dynamic charities. Chazz explains, “As parents, Gianna and I connect with kids and want to help the foster children in our area.” Gianna continues, “Connection and giving back will be our focus this coming year.”
Chazz and Gianna love being at home in Bedford for the holiday season. “We’ve bought into the good, old fashioned American Christmas,” says Gianna. I ask if one of their traditions was staying up late to wrap the kid’s gifts on Christmas Eve. “We’d go to 4 pm Christmas Eve mass because Dante and Gabriella were in the nativity play, then Chazz and I would stay up and wrap until 3 am,” says Gianna. “Remember that, honey?” She perks up, asking Chazz. He quips back, “How could I forget?” in exactly the way you’d expect. Endearing with a side of sarcasm, and it’s pure gold. Gianna gives me a look like she’s letting me in on a secret. “I still wake the kids up early for Christmas,” she whispers, snuggling with Paris, their new puppy that they welcomed after the loss of their beloved 15-year-old cockapoo, Coco. “It’s the little things, like friends and family, snow and cozy fires, entertaining and baking.” She smiles at Chazz. “We should all embrace the simplicity of the season.”
Her mom’s butter cookies, made from a simple yet special recipe, are her favorite to enjoy. “Everyone loves them,” says Gianna. “They’re great for dessert or even in the morning with coffee.”
Oatmeal cookies and almond cookies, the latter of which is a recipe from Gianna’s father, are Chazz’s two favorite Christmas cookies.
His favorite are tricolor cookies, made from a recipe that was passed down from Gianna’s mother and her aunt. “I love making these,” says Gianna.
Her favorite is Gianna’s homemade Linzer tarts, which she’s perfected over many years and makes in large and small shapes.
“Our favorite Christmas movie is Deck the Halls. We watch it the day after Thanksgiving and have it on loop the entire season.”