Wining & Dining with Pierre Robert Featured in Daily News

Posted on Thursday, April 24, 2008

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Robert (above left) and Ralph Pallarino sample a vegetarian dish; a bottle of Pierreno Grigio (left).
Photos: JILLIAN BAUER / For the Daily News
Robert (above left) and Ralph Pallarino sample a vegetarian dish; a bottle of Pierreno Grigio (left).
Wine with a spin: Chaddsford label toasts vintage DJ Pierre Robert

WHAT DO you get when you mix two legendary rock musicians, a famous off-Broadway director, a masseuse, an interior designer, a publicist, a songwriter and an infamous DJ?

A typical weekend get-together for 93.3-WMMR radio icon Pierre Robert and his close friends.

The Daily News was there on a recent Sunday night as the weekday DJ and pals gathered at a friend’s Radnor townhouse, as they often do, for a laid-back evening of food, conversation and mellow lounge music.

This time there was a purpose to the party: the recent debut of a 2006 Chaddsford Winery pinot grigio aptly named Pierreno Grigio after the honey-voiced song spinner.

What were you expecting?

Led Zeppelin and a keg?

Think again.

Dozens of candles flickered on the walls and in the fireplace as Burt Bacharach tunes played softly in the background. Bottles of Pierreno Grigio chilled on ice in the dining room as the stove was warmed to prepare the night’s repast, including a vegetarian pasta Robert would cook using his wine.

Just after 5, the long-haired, T-shirt-wearing Robert made his entrance. His deep, trademark laugh boomed down the hallway to announce his arrival – swinging on tie-dyed crutches pasted with WMMR stickers.

He’s been using them since he broke his foot in a February tumble over a curb, though he prefers to say he sustained the injury while interrupting a bank robbery in progress.

Robert took a seat on a kitchen bar stool, poured a glass of wine and dug into a Mediterranean hors d’oeuvre spread of olives, peppers, tapanade and crostini.

Robert’s longtime friend Rob Hyman, lead vocalist for the Hooters, was among the first to arrive. He grabbed some wine and took a seat on the couch with his wife, Sally, who’d been there since much earlier in the day to help set up the party. The two chatted as Hyman flipped through a coffee- table book about Bruce Springsteen.

Next to arrive was Hooters guitarist John Lilley and his friend, Bob Lorhmann, director of the long-running Washington, D.C., musical “Shear Madness.”

Robert has been friends with the Hooters since they started out in the early ’80s playing local clubs. He was one of the first to spin their songs on the air.

“We go back a long way,” said Robert, perched on the stool and picking at the tapanade.

Other guests included interior designer Ann Hoffman of ARK Creative Inc., masseuse Bill Tourtual and songwriter David Foreman.

Once everyone got the requisite jokes about having to “get a taste of Pierre” out of their systems, the crowd weighed in on the new wine, which sells at Pennsylvania state stores and at select area restaurants.

The winery Web site, where it sells for $17.99 a bottle, describes Pierreno Grigio as “mouthwatering with clean, crisp acidity and zesty juicy fruit.”

“It’s good, I like it,” said Pierre’s longtime friend Dallyn Pavey, owner of Dish Public Relations and host of the bash. “I usually drink red wine, but I like it.”

Everyone approved of the label, a picture of Robert, his hair blowing in the breeze, on a tie-dyed background.

It was time to prepare dinner, so Robert hobbled into the kitchen to help chef Ralph Pallarino of Gypsy Saloon in West Conshohocken prepare linguini and vegetables in Pierreno Grigio sauce.

Anyone who knows Robert knows the peace-loving hippie only eats vegetarian, so Pallarino created the dish especially for him. It will be served during a wine dinner Tuesday at Gypsy to celebrate the wine’s release.

Pallarino tossed a few pats of butter and some olive oil into a heated pan as Robert winced.

“That’s enough to stop 17 hearts,” he laughed.

The two began adding ingredients: roasted tomatoes, artichoke hearts, porcini mushrooms, pepperoncini, shallots.

“I like it spicy,” Robert warned.

Then it was time for the celebrated wine.

“Just dump it in,” Pallarino urged. “This is what we call a reduction.”

A few minutes later, Robert slid fresh linguine into the pan, folded the sauce over the pasta, then plated it.

“There’s something about the way the wine meshes with the bouquet of flavors,” he joked, as his kitchen audience roared with laughter.

Dinner was served buffet style, and the friends headed to the living room to chat and eat. Talk turned to Pierre’s early days in radio some 26 years ago, when the WMMR studio was located in Rittenhouse Square – and no one knew who the heck this hippie dude was.

These days, Robert can barely go out in public without die-hard rock fans yelling, “Greetings, citizen!” – a trademark Pierreism – at the man with the signature black-and-white beard and jet-black hair.

It’s this recognition that spurred Chaddsford Winery to offer Robert his first official product. “People have approached me and have suggested things,” said Robert. “T-shirts, coffee, a book – but I tend to like small businesses as opposed to chains.

“I went up there and saw Chaddsford, and I liked the wine. They asked me, what do you want to call it, and I actually thought of the name.”

Robert said he wouldn’t be opposed to marketing other products in the future, though he’d want it to be more of a charitable effort than a moneymaker. He does receive about $1 for every bottle of Pierreno Grigio sold, but for him it’s more about getting recognition for the winery than making money.

Dessert was store-bought pastries – a mix of eclairs and petits fours. Unable to make a choice, Robert happily accepted one of each.

With dinner out of the way, it was time to pose for group photos, as the friends do each time they get together. Then Lilley and Hyman showed everyone a copy of the new Hooters CD, “Time Stand Still.”

“It is excellent, really good stuff,” Robert raved.

By 9 p.m. the guests were heading home as Robert plopped on a couch to rest. His radio show runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, so he usually goes to bed early.

It was a good night he agreed, a lot of fun.

Indeed, citizen, indeed. *

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