STATEN ISLAND LUMINARIES SHARE CELEBRITY ROLE MODELS, ULTIMATE WINTER VACATIONS, AND THEIR ALL TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY FLICKS

BY ERIK SCHONING, JESSICA JONES GORMAN, AND AMANDA MCCOY PHOTOS BY AMANDA DOMENECH AND ERIC COLEMAN

Angelina Malerba
Owner, Angelina’s Ristorante and Angelina’s Kitchen angelinasristorante.com, angelinaskitchennyc.com

As the youngest of ten children, Malerba learned the importance of tenacity and grit early in her formative years and began working at the age of ten. Inspired by the style and valor of Italian actress Sophia Loren, the aspiring entrepreneur didn’t want to just get by; she wanted to excel. The Sicily native found early success in beauty and cosmetics, but when the opportunity arose to open a restaurant, she jumped on it.

“Good food and good service was something that always impressed me and was instilled into my Sicilian blood at a young age. What was once a pizzeria became a five star restaurant that is now continuing to expand. I have taught my children to work the same way I had to, and they are building the business and the family further than I could have ever imagined.”

Angelina’s Ristorante is housed in a tri level, waterfront mansion and serves elegant Italian dishes like pistachio crusted wild Chilean sea bass, rack of lamb three ways, and a decadent center cut natural veal chop with peas and mushroom risotto. Angelina’s Kitchen offers a more casual dining experience, its menu comprising bubbling brick oven pizzas, pasta dishes, and Italian specialties like shrimp oreganata and bone in pork Milanese.

“Thee most rewarding aspect of my career is being able to give back to the community,” said Malerba of her multi decade success in one of the city’s most competitive industries. “I am a firm believer in paying it forward. Seeing satisfied customers has always been and continues to be my driving force in getting me there every night.”

Ambassador SPREAD

ALL TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY MOVIE?
Vacanze Di Natale. It came out the year my daughter was born.

WHO IS YOUR CELEBRITY ROLE MODEL?
Gina Lollobrigida. She embodies poise, beauty, and elegance and represents true class.

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM WINTER VACATION?
A cruise around the world. Before I die I want to sail around on a private yacht with all my friends and family and experience all of nature’s beauty

 

 

 

 

 

Cory Schifter
Owner, Casale Jewelers / casalejewelers.net
Though many people on the Island might recognize the owner of Casale Jewelers from his high end Dongan Hills boutique, others know Schifter as Mr. Charity a Staten Island native who has raised more than $100,000 for local nonprofits, donates diamond necklaces and trips to Disney for charitable fundraisers, and dresses up as Santa to deliver gifts to kids. He believes in a “pay it forward” mantra; in fact, after getting recognized in 2012 by Facebook and American Express as one of the top five small businesses in the U.S., he immediately reinvested his grant in the Island.

“I had people nominate local nonprofits to get a grant from me, which was $1,250 per grant, and we gave away three of them. I did it multiple years in a row, so I was able to match the $25,000 that was given to us. I’m bringing it back this year; I want to do something good for our community.”

Schifter has nabbed numerous awards over the years for his charitable endeavors and business acumen, but the father of three acknowledged his proudest accomplishment to date is building a career that allows him to be active in his kids’ lives, from coaching flag football to making it home in time for dinner each night.

“I raise my kids with the same values that I give to my business, to give everything we have to everything, and I’m starting to see that drive in my kids.”

ALL TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY MOVIE?
Christmas Vacation.

WHO IS YOUR CELEBRITY ROLE MODEL?
John Maxwell. He’s a world renowned author, mentor, and leadership coach. His core values are about raising people up. He’s actually coming to Staten Island to do a community transformation project that’s going to bring so much positivity and hope to the Island.

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM WINTER VACATION?
An all-inclusive Caribbean resort.

 

 

 

 

 

Pamela Columbia
President, Statewide Fire Corp. / statewidefirecorp.com
Columbia was immersed in the alarm industry growing up, working part time for her father’s security company for several years before pursuing a teaching education. While working on her master’s degree in literacy, an opportunity arose to invest in the creation of a station monitoring facility alongside her brother, eventually paving the way for Columbia to launch her own company.

“I became more and more invested and inspired, and I was presented with the opportunity to start an NYC re division of the Central Station, a separate company that monitors commercial re alarms and signals within the five boroughs,” said Columbia of her company.

The early days weren’t without challenges, recalled the entrepreneur, particularly as a young woman in a largely male dominated industry. But the mantra “solutions, not excuses” (instilled by her father) moved her forward, and today Statewide Fire monitors re alarms and emergency signals for more than 6,000 approved commercial re accounts. “As a woman in a man’s world I could have complained how hard it was, but I didn’t. Instead I welcomed the challenges, I appreciated the individuals who inspired me and helped me grow, and I worked as hard as I could.”

And even without a classroom, Columbia still realized her dream to teach and mentor others through SIEDC, where she currently sits on the Executive Board of Directors as secretary and serves as chair of the Personnel Committee and the board liaison to the Executive Women’s Council.

ALL TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY MOVIE?
Love Actually. I love “love” and everything about it. At the end of the day, aside from good health, love is all you need.

WHO IS YOUR CELEBRITY ROLE MODEL?
Miss Piggy. Always has been, always will be. She is as real as it gets. Unapologetic, fierce, glamorous, and sensitive at the same time.

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM WINTER VACATION?
I will take Aruba all day every day. Put me on a beach at sunset with a glass of wine, my family, and my friends, and I am set.

 

 

 

 

 

Emily Rassias
Owner, Emily’s / emilysny.com
Instilled with a fervor for fashion at a young age, this Staten Island native noticed a gap in the borough’s boutique style industry early in her career. “ There weren’t any specialty stores where you could get a personalized shopping experience and be sure you were buying something no one else had,” explained Rassias. Thus in 1982 she launched Emily’s, a specialty fashion emporium that couples the latest contemporary styles with personalized VIP service. The store has since expanded three times and received several updates in its 38 year history, the latest a luxurious overhaul of the evening salon in 2018. Another major renovation is in the works for 2021.

For Rassias, staying up to date with trends and designers is key to lasting success in an ever evolving industry, but even as styles and seasons change, the rewards of her labor don’t waver.
“Being able to be a part of my clients’ big life moments, simply by dressing them, is probably the most rewarding aspect of this business. Back when people actually developed photos, clients would bring in pictures from events like their children’s wedding in the gown they got from me. They’d tell me how great they felt in it, and how much fun they had. That always made me feel like I was in the right industry. Now, we ask them to send us photos to share on our Instagram account. It’s just nice to have a little something to do with making someone’s special day whether that be a wedding, a prom, or even a job interview even more special.”

ALL TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY MOVIE?
Love, Actually. I love the way everyone’s lives are connected and come together in the end. It always makes me happy. And I absolutely LOVE the soundtrack. I went out and purchased it the next day.

WHO IS YOUR CELEBRITY ROLE MODEL?
Jennifer Lopez. I really love her sense of style and work ethic. She’s sexy, smart, and a great business woman.

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM WINTER VACATION?
Anguilla. The beaches, the people, the food. I love everything about it!

 

 

 

 

 


Dr. Kenneth Chapman, MD
Interventional Pain Medicine Specialist, Spine and Pain Institute of New York / spinepainny.com
Dr. Kenneth Chapman, a Staten Island native and recipient of numerous peer validated awards, including America’s Best Anesthesiologists and Most Compassionate Doctors, is about as well decorated as medical professionals get. He heads the fellowship program at the Spine and Pain Institute of New York and has spent his career innovating in a quickly changing field. A specialist in spinal cord stimulation and other minimally invasive procedures, Dr. Chapman’s work has kept many a grateful patient out of the operating room. In 2014, he was one of the youngest doctors to be named an NYT Super Doctor and an NY Magazine Top Doctor. In addition to practicing at SIUH and NYU Langone, he finds time to treat the underserved communities of Staten Island compassionate indeed.

“I became interested in pain management during medical school because I noticed often in the hospital that doctors and specialists would x patient issues, but the pain would linger even after the underlying problem was resolved,” noted the doctor. “I felt badly for these people. It really made me want to be involved in helping to alleviate the patients’ pain.”

ALL TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY MOVIE?
The old school Frosty the Snowman.

WHO IS YOUR CELEBRITY ROLE MODEL?
Derek Jeter.

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM WINTER VACATION?
We go to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic every year with family and friends, and that’s probably the most special vacation for me.

 

 

 

 


Joe Tirone
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker, Compass Real Estate compass.com
This real estate guru got his start in the industry when he was still a Wall Street exec. Working at First Boston (now Credit Suisse), he was tasked with researching and learning about underlying collateral mortgages which eventually led him to run the REO department for a Citigroup and Steinhart Partners joint venture in the ‘90s. There, he developed an expertise in foreclosures, auctions, title, and chapter 13 real estate related bankruptcies impactful knowledge that helped him launch a successful residential and commercial real estate career in the early 2000s. After nearly 20 years of success, he partnered with Compass Real Estate, a nationally renowned firm that pairs the industry’s top talent with technology to make the search and sell experience intelligent and seamless.

“My partnership with Compass here in Staten Island has allowed my team and I to specialize in the high end residential market and small commercial,” he noted. “We bring high tech, high touch to this end of the market while our hyper local expertise combines Compass brand marketing that has greatly benefited our clients here. Our affiliation with Compass commercial brings NYC market expertise to our ever growing commercial development that is taking place on the North Shore.”

ALL TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY MOVIE?
It’s A Wonderful Life. I think the movie really struck a chord with me because it reminds me of growing up on Staten Island when Port Richmond Avenue was a Main Street and everyone in the borough frequented my father’s store.

WHO IS YOUR CELEBRITY ROLE MODEL?
Mel Brooks. He used his work as a medium to satire the atrocity of racism. I honestly think he is simply a brilliant comedic genius.

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM WINTER VACATION?
I had an unbelievable experience in 2009 when my daughter and I took a trip to Alaska to work the Iditarod. We worked the first station together with about 40 other volunteers. It was a trip I will never forget.

 

 

 

 

 


Michael Bush, Esq.
Managing Partner, Chelli & Bush / chelliandbush.com
For this American University Law School graduate, the groundwork for his legal career was laid long before he journeyed to D.C. to attend law school. “My father started the law firm over 50 years ago,” he explained of the origin of Chelli & Bush, a personal injury and accident firm based in New Dorp. “ is played a large part in my decision to attend law school and then go on to join Chelli & Bush, Attorney at Law in 1994.”

Over the years, the firm has recovered more than $400 million for clients mainly Staten Island residents in a large array of injury lawsuits, from motor vehicle accidents and trip and falls to construction and school accidents. Helping his fellow New Yorkers, the attorney explained, is the most rewarding aspect of his work.

“I’ve had clients give me hugs and break down in tears in the past after they receive their settlement or award.”

And today, the Bush family law legacy continues with his son, Victor, who recently joined the firm after graduating from law school and passing the bar. “I look forward to a bright future for the firm and for him.”

ALL TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY MOVIE?
Ford v Ferrari, which I saw with my family, and the first Star Wars movie, which I saw with my dad on Christmas Eve.

WHO IS YOUR CELEBRITY ROLE MODEL?
Warren Buffet.

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM WINTER VACATION?
Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic with my family and close friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ronald Gregg, Esq.
Senior Partner, Gregg & Associates P.C. / greggandassociates.org
At this point in his career, there isn’t much that Ronald Gregg hasn’t seen. A former NYPD police officer, Rikers Island trial commissioner, and judge, Gregg is currently a practicing lawyer with his firm, Gregg and Associates. A Staten Island native, Gregg heads one of the borough’s only minority owned law firms and has received the Louis R. Miller Business Leadership Award and the NAACP Award for Outstanding Service. Gregg has built a long career in New York City and sees a relationship between community and success a deep seated belief that led him to launch his firm in his native borough. These days, he’s shifting his focus towards mentorship and the success of a new generation of Staten Islanders.

“Each individual has to make a determined effort to do what they can to be a mentor and leader in their community,” he said. “It allows you to look back from where you came and show young people that they, too, can achieve success. I feel so fortunate and blessed that’s why I strive to assist and mentor, because that’s what helped me during my own humble beginnings.”

ALL TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY MOVIE?
The Preacher’s Wife starring Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston. A close second is The Holiday Calendar.

WHO IS YOUR CELEBRITY ROLE MODEL?
As the former assistant general counsel of the National NAACP and a retired judge, I have to say Thurgood Marshall, the first African American supreme court justice.

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM WINTER VACATION?
I have always longed to go to Australia, and one the most attractive resort areas there is Whitehaven Beach. That’s where I would spend my winter.

 

 

 

 

 


Dr. Louis DeSantis, DDS
Prosthodontist / drdesantis.com
As the Island’s first board certified prosthodontist, Dr. DeSantis provides aesthetic dental care for his community and beyond. A graduate of New York University’s College of Dentistry and Monte ore Medical Center, Dr. DeSantis studied dental veneers, crowns, bridges, and the correction of smile imbalances in order to specialize in prosthodontics, which also utilizes dental implants to restore teeth to their proper form and function. His practice uses the latest in dental technologies including digital radiographs, digital impressions, and digital CT scanning for dental implants.

“The field of prosthodontics is a blend of art and science that allows us to create the final picture, enhancing a smile, protecting weakened teeth, and replacing missing teeth naturally. The big shift now in restorative dentistry is the digital revolution. The accuracy and speed of this technology is simply amazing. I’m happy to be a part of the American College of Prosthodontics which is really taking the lead on this technology not only nationally but worldwide.”

ALL TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY MOVIE?
It’s A Wonderful Life.

WHO IS YOUR CELEBRITY ROLE MODEL?
Pope Francis.

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM WINTER VACATION?
Anywhere with friends and family where we can once again enjoy each other’s company after the pandemic has passed.

 

 

 

 


Ellee Nolan Asaro
Interior Designer, Trade Mart Interiors / trademartinteriors.com
This awarded interior designer takes great pride in playing an important role in each and every one of her client’s lives. “I think the most beautiful part of this profession is that we have grown with so many families,” she used. “We recently started work on a couple’s third home. When we first met them, they did not have any children and now they have four. We’ve taken them from townhouse to fully detached to their dream home.”

Ten years ago, Asaro brought in fellow designer and right hand, Cathy DiGeorgio, and together the duo has built an indomitable partnership that’s focused on bringing their clients’ visions to life. “The first time I asked her to pull fabrics for me, I knew we would be a great pair,” said Asaro of DiGeorgio. “We connected instantly; I finally found someone who was on the same page as me. Now, we finish each other’s sentences.”

And throughout the recent global pandemic that working relationship has only grown stronger. “We have truly realized what an important service we offer. Throughout these past several months, people’s homes have become their oasis. Creating a comfortable space has so much more meaning now. And it really is a joy to design a room or rooms where the family gathers and spends time together. That’s what this business is all about.”

ALL TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY MOVIE?
White Christmas and Holiday Inn.

WHO IS YOUR CELEBRITY ROLE MODEL?
The Accidental Icon Iris Apfel.

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM WINTER VACATION?
Going to see the Northern Lights in Norway

 

 

 

 


Ray Mostafavi
Ophthalmologist, the Mostafavi Eye Institute mostafavieye.com
Dr. Ray Mostafavi is no stranger to headlines. He finished his undergraduate studies at just 18, medical school at 22, and in 2001 opened his ophthalmology practice on Staten Island. In 2013, the Mostafavi Eye Institute brought the first vision correction laser to the borough. Mostafavi works with his brother, David, in a family oriented approach that has played a major part in their long term success. Their latest project is the Dry Eye Center, addressing a much under diagnosed condition with a variety of treatment options. Day to day, Dr. Mostafavi is gratified by the results his work can deliver, whether he’s performing corneal transplants, Lasik surgery, or dry eye treatment. Nearly 20 years in, it’s what keeps him at it.

“I chose this field because it’s a very tangible profession. You have the ability to make a big difference in someone’s life in a very short period of time. After a ten to 15 minute procedure, a person’s vision is noticeably changed.”

ALL TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY MOVIE?
A Christmas Story, I think, best captures the innocence and excitement that as a kid I felt during Christmas.

WHO IS YOUR CELEBRITY ROLE MODEL?
Bill Gates: intelligent, humble, a family man, and a philanthropist. The world is a better place today, and forever, because of Bill Gates.

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM WINTER VACATION?
Aruba. Warm, beautiful, consistently good weather, family oriented, and safe. And most importantly, I can count on running into at least one of my patients there!