Every three weeks or so, Bill de Blasio makes a stop in the East Village, where for $16 he gets a lesson in Italian, an update on Italian politics and a haircut -- long on top, short on the sides.
"His hair, I can cut him in 10 minutes, but we talk -- a little of this, little of that -- until it goes over half an hour," said Alberto Amore, the Democratic mayoral front-runner's barber of about five years.
Earlier this week, de Blasio dropped by for a final trim before next Tuesday's election. The two the men chatted in Italian for nearly an hour, with Amore showing de Blasio how the Italian newspaper, Le Repubblica, has chronicled the mayoral race.
"Alberto is my Italian professor . . . plus, he has the latest Italian newspapers," said de Blasio, whose maternal relatives are from Italy.
Tucked in a back corner of Astor Place Hairstylists, Amore's work station is festooned with photos of de Blasio, some faded and peeling. A bumper sticker blares, "Bill de Blasio, ombolivobo!" -- a New York take on the word “unbelievable” -- and a photo of the candidate, his wife, Chirlane and their kids, Chiara, 18, and Dante, 16, has been taped under the words, "Are you ready?"
The Queens barber gesticulates excitedly, his corkscrew curls bouncing, when discussing the likelihood that he'll be the barber to the city's next mayor. Born and raised in Sicily, Amore, 65, lapses into Italian when he doesn't think English effectively conveys what he wants to say.
"The way I see him, he's not a stuck-up guy. He's a very humble guy," Amore said. "He's just, as we say in Italian, alla mano," which roughly translates to approachable.
Amore said he knew de Blasio would become "somebody important" when he began coming to the shop 30 years ago to see another barber.
"He came here a year ago and . . . nobody was really paying attention. They think he's a just another guy, but I knew in my heart, this guy is going to be somebody," Amore recalled. "The last two months when he walks in, he's a rock star. Everybody comes in, and they shake hands, and take a picture with him."
Amore said he is protective of de Blasio, making sure he doesn't get too swarmed by well-wishers. He also is loyal. He said de Blasio doesn't share executive secrets with him, but even if he did, the barber said he wouldn't dish.
Amore, who is married and has a 25-year-old daughter, began working in a Sicilian barber shop when he was 7 or 8 with his uncle and brother. He helped with trims and shaves, even when he preferred to be playing soccer with his friends. Asked whether he would keep Amore as his mane man if he's elected, de Blasio said, "Of course."
"When I sit in this chair, I feel like I'm in Italy. We're talking about what's happening in the parliament, what's happening with the prime minister, the different political parties -- just what's on the mind of Italians -- so it connects me to my heritage very directly," de Blasio said.
While Amore enjoys chatting, he said he's focused on his work. "People have to see that he got a nice haircut. He has to look sharp, because he will be the mayor for New York City."