PHILADELPHIA - Danny DeVito is turning lemons into limoncello.
The tiny actor with the mountainous shadow has parlayed a drunken appearance on “The View” into a new alcohol-driven enterprise.
Salud!, Danny D.
“I’m so happy about it, it ain’t funny,” says DeVito, relaxing on South Street between takes of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
The FX sitcom, about a group of barely-30 pals running a loser bar in South Philly, was in town last week from L.A. to shoot scenes for season three, which launches in September.
Danny DeVito’s Premium Limoncello, an after-dinner liqueur produced in Italy’s Sorrento peninsula, hits stores in late August. A 750-ml. black bottle, designed by DeVito himself, will go for about $25.
It all began in November, when DeVito, 62, staggered onto ABC’s live “View.” Exhausted and sloshed, he admitted to having consumed seven limoncellos the night before with pal George Clooney.
On an X-rated tear, DeVito cracked wise about his wife, “Cheers” alum Rhea Perlman, and President Bush, among others. Even Rosie O’Donnell pulling him onto her lap couldn’t stop our Danny.
With the “View” video getting monstrous hits on YouTube, DeVito began receiving boxes of lemons and limoncello from all over the world.
“I figured with all that publicity, I would start my own line. What the hell? It was karma. My role will be to visit my lemons in Italy. Anybody can squeeze my lemons. They’re really big lemons.”
And how. During shooting breaks on a muggy afternoon, Asbury Park’s DeVito makes like the King of South Street as he strolls to his air-conditioned trailer.
Of course, it’s hard to miss a 4-foot-11 buzz saw in a fake Philly cop uniform. (In this episode, his character, a hustler, impersonates a police officer to demand kickbacks.)
DeVito, in search of a sandwich, can’t take two steps without shout-outs from pedestrians and motorists. He says hello to everyone; poses for photos (mostly taken on cell phones) with everyone.
The well-wishers span several generations, as does DeVito’s work, from “Taxi” (1978-83) to “War of the Roses” (`89) to “Batman Returns” (`92) to “Matilda” (`96) to “Deck the Halls” (`06.)
Danny’s just a guy who can’t say no.
“I’m always friendly,” he says. “As you get older, your circle of friends keeps growing until it seems like nobody on the planet doesn’t know who you are. The circle keeps broadening.”
Local lad Rob McElhenney, 30, “Sunny’s” creator and star, says DeVito gets mobbed in every city. “No matter what the situation, he always stops and talks to everybody. He’s a great role model.”
Uh, role model? DeVito proudly drinks his kiddie-corps “Sunny” costars under the table.
“The guy’s a maniac,” Robbie Mac says with affection. ” `Last call’ comes and he’s ready for more. I’m ready to go to bed.”
DeVito frequently holds court while balancing a bottle on his head. The whole night. He did it once on a cross-country flight, with Peeping Tom blasting on his iPod.
“It kinds of Zens you out,” he explains.
Hard to imagine DeVito Zen-ed out. In addition to appearing in all 15 “Sunny” episodes and producing movies for his Jersey Films, he’s a budding restaurateur.
DeVito South Beach opened Wednesday night in Miami. Most of the “Sunny” cast was there, on DeVito’s dime. They joined the “Sopranos” gang (minus star James Gandolfini) at a pre-opening dinner Monday.
The “Sopranos” group was in town, anyway, for a promotional gig in conjunction with Sunday’s series finale.
The menu’s Italian, of course. Prototype bottles of DeVito’s limoncello were poured Monday. Robbie Mac’s verdict? “Delicious, but too strong to drink straight. I added a little water.”
DeVito hopes to open similar eateries in other cities, including Las Vegas. “We’ll see how this goes,” he said Tuesday. “This place is so gorgeous; comfortable but sexy.”
Like so much in DeVito’s life, the restaurant thing happened through serendipity.
Two years ago, while meeting with a Boca Raton, Fla., entrepreneur about financing a film, the conversation turned to restaurants. Turns out the money guy had his eye on a place in South Beach. A partnership was born.
DeVito still needs backers, however, for his latest Jersey Films project - “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle,” based on the popular children’s book.
“I’ve got Morgan Freeman, Pierce Brosnan and Dakota Fanning, but the studios are giving me a hard time,” says DeVito.
Back to the limoncello - does he plan to give a cut to Ms. O’Donnell?
“Hey, I’m not Santee Claus,” he says, laughing, “but Rosie and I will definitely knock a few back.”