Deanna Dellacioppa Colón singing.Deanna Dellacioppa Colón belts out a song. / Photos courtesy of Colón 

There can never be too much pepperoni on a pizza, and there can never be too many pizza restaurants to choose from in Arlington; we’re lucky that way. 

But talk to longtime town residents, and they often get a dreamy look in their eyes as they recall Nicola’s, an Italian restaurant known as much for its outstanding pizza as for its co-owner Mary Dellacioppa -- an exuberant, friendly, sometimes gruff presence behind the counter -- and her husband, Nicola, who had a quieter demeanor. 

Regular diners may also remember their daughter Deanna, who grew up in Winchester but spent her childhood and adolescence helping out at the restaurant, which was open for 41 years, from 1972 to 2013, at 1215 Mass. Ave.

“I was there pretty much as soon as I could walk,”  said Deanna in a recent telephone interview.

Today, as Deanna Colón, she is a singer, songwriter, vocal coach and performer and has an array of TikTok videos about how to cook, having learned at her parents’ side.

Deanna dances, pitches Jardiance

Lately, she’s become familiar to television viewers for her enthusiastic performance in a commercial for prescription medication Jardiance in which she sings and dances along with other happy people and ends up wearing a bright yellow dress, letting the world know how it can manage its Type 2 diabetes.

The multitalented Colón has sung in other commercials, ranging from a Pepsi spot with rap star Bad Bunny to ads for Instacart, Big Lots and Cadbury. Her music has more than 200 placements in movies and TV. And, thanks to Zoom, she teaches voice students from around the world.

She credits the full scholarship that she won to Berklee College of Music for opening doors to networking and encouraging her songwriting.

She even made it to the quarterfinals of America’s Got Talent in 2006 by singing an audience-rousing version of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from “Dreamgirls.”

But singing and appearing on a TV contest is only part of her success story. She is, of course, a chef. She auditioned for Fox’s “Master Chef" in 2019, hosted by chef Gordon Ramsay, winning an award from the judges.

Colón’s exuberance in the Jardiance commercial as well as in her other work comes naturally. She agrees that she has the same outgoing presence as her mother, whether on television or in her cooking videos, where she’ll often break into song while making pizza dough or explaining how to season ricotta. The videos are called “Go Fork Yourself,” and she doesn’t hold back from using what she calls her East Coast accent -- whatevuh -- amid a liberal sprinkling of the word “freakin’” and an ongoing patter rich with jokes and impromptu comments.

Another kind of soufflé

“Is anyone disappointed that Bobby Flay didn’t name his daughter Sue?” she asks in one video. She notes that a recipe is fast but full of "flava.” While making Bang Bang Chicken, she does a dance at the kitchen counter. “Why not?” she says about her ongoing chatter while cooking. “I want this to be fun.”

Deanna's parents, Nicola and Mary, in an undated photo from back when pizza cost 25 cents a slice.

The videos are a hit. As one commenter wrote: “OK, I’ve decided I want to be a kid again, and I want you to adopt me and feed me.”

In Arlington, she would sing even at what was then a nearby Gold’s Gym, recalled Jimmy Walker of East Arlington, a longtime customer. He used to see her there -- and said that she sang when she worked out. A woman named Gloria would walk in, Walker said, and Deanna would burst into “Gloria,” the song made famous by Laura Branigan. 

On the phone during a recent interview, she was more low key, paying tribute to her parents who, she said, got married at the ages of 18 and 20, the same year they opened their restaurant. “A slice of pizza was 25 cents back then,” she said. She recalled them putting in 12-hour work days because they insisted on keeping an eye on quality. 

After living in New York and then Los Angeles, she eventaully moved to Las Vegas with her husband, Manny; Nicola and Mary moved there, too, in order to be near her and closer to their son, Nick, who lives in Utah. 

While the fondly remembered restaurant is a key ingredient in Colón’s life and career, it also meant a lot to many of its former customers. 

For example, one former Arlington resident waxed rhapsodic on Yelp: “What the place lacked in polish, it made up for with surprisingly great food and the charm of the loud husband/wife team….the margherita was awesome, and the white roman was sublime.”  

In addition to his own relatives’ phone numbers, he wrote, the only other number listed in his “favorites” was for Nicola’s.

 April 18, 2023: Review: Toraya: Snug space, artful plates

This news feature by YourArlington freelancer Marjorie Howard was published Saturday, March 30, 2024.