“We have to start in Italian because it’s Italian vodka.”
Mike Piazza expressed his gratitude in Italian, off the cuff, tossing out a four-time “grazie a tutti” at a Friday night event promoting True Vodka, his latest business venture.
“The Italian side is something we’re very proud of,” said Piazza, who recently bought an Italian soccer team only to plunge it into bankruptcy.
True Vodka, according to their own marketing material, is for the rich. They identified their target demographic as people between the ages of 30 and 50 with household incomes ranging from $125,000 to $350,000, living in “ambitious urban locations and neighborhoods.” As one of the faces of the Mets, a team that has always represented the city’s working class, Piazza delivers a message that seems much more aligned with the yuppie Yankees.
But, let’s not forget, True Vodka is extremely Italian. It’s not something that Pennsylvania native Piazza takes lightly. When asked how important it was to be involved in a pursuit with such strong Italian roots, he was ready.
“It’s an honor, no doubt,” Piazza said, admitting he was skeptical of the idea at first. “Then I tasted it and researched the history of spirits. Obviously, in northern Italy there is a tradition of fine spirits. Grappa, moscato, other products made there.
Yes, every syllable of grappa and moscato came out too Italian.
“Look, I mean everyone knows about Italian cars, Italian suits, Italian wine, Italian food, everything,” Piazza said. “We feel they put the same passion, emotion and quality into the vodka. I think it shows.
What showed Friday night, when Piazza was selling vodka from its namesake Piazza 31 Club at Citi Field, with the full blessing of the Mets, is that this business is mostly a vibe and not a whole lot of business acumen. In addition to Piazza’s past history, in his own words“dissolving” a beloved Italian soccer institution, he also recently threw his support behind a California gubernatorial candidate who had already accepted defeat and blamed voter fraud for the loss before the election was over.
Everything about the True Vodka experience smacks of Tom Haverford, the “Parks and Recreation” character who tossed around big idea after big idea with no plan or knowledge of how to follow them. Piazza had Vinny Cotona sitting next to him on Friday, a very well-dressed, tanned man who spearheaded this “family project.” It is unclear whether Cotona and Piazza are actually related or are simply a family in the Italian sense.
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Piazza and Cotona may want a younger family member to take over the company‘s online presence. True Vodka highlighted, very vaguely, the concept of social media as one of their main strategies for building the brand. On the company’s website, clicking the Twitter icon at the bottom of their “About” page links to an account that does not exist. As the Hall of Fame receiver touted the momentum the company was building, his Instagram page notes that True Vodka can be ordered through something called the GrapeStars app.
GrapeStars appears to be a service that allows celebrities ranging from Dan Marino to Christie Brinkley to offer their own alcohol. It also does not appear to be available in the Apple App Store. GrapeStars has a website, but typing its name in the App Store returns a bold “No results”.
If Piazza has anything, it has its quirky attachment to the old country and the Mets. Real vodka is apparently distilled seven times in Friuli, Italy, and made from Tuscan spring water, which may explain why he thinks it’s not for low-income families and their palates. unsophisticated. Still, the 427 homer is unquestionably a Mets legend, and the team is welcoming him back for Alumni Day on Aug. 27.
“I was at the gym this morning and my daughter was like, ‘Daddy, you better stretch.’ I realized I wasn’t very flexible,” Piazza said. “It’s just one game. I’ll probably be in the tub afterwards because I’ll be in real pain.
Between finding new ways to invest the millions he’s earned playing baseball and planning events where he mostly wants to show off his Italian accent, Piazza has apparently found time to watch the Mets this year.
“It’s a very good baseball club and they do a lot of things right,” he said. “But look, the playoffs are another season, and it’s tough. What you’re doing is trying to build momentum through the end of the year.
Only time will tell if True Vodka’s momentum will continue through the end of the year as well. Otherwise, he may have to close a second Italian company.