Angela "Big Ang" Raiola at her Staten Island bar the Drunken Monkey, site of her previous VH1 series. Her new reality show is "Miami Monkey."
It’s not even 9 a.m. on a weekday and a small crowd of regulars is already seated at the bar of the Drunken Monkey on Staten Island.
Owner Angela "Big Ang" Raiola is due any second, but even though the patrons are soon to be in the company of a VH1 TV star, the crowd of middle-aged men is unfazed.
“I want my own reality show, but I want to be naked every second of the day,” shares one vodka-sipping guy who’s known the “Mob Wife” for years.
Ang arrives and immediately orders a Bloody Mary, or “breakfast,” as she calls it. Her daughter Raquel declares it’s too early for vodka, and asks for cocktail without alcohol.
And that different set of standards is the premise for the pair’s new reality show, “Miami Monkey,” premiering Sunday at 10 p.m. on VH1.
Big Ang surveys the pastel scene at her new bar, the Miami Monkey, located on Ocean Drive in South Beach.
Named for the new South Beach outpost of the Drunken Monkey, “Miami Monkey” follows mom and daughter as they open their bar on the sexy strip Ocean Drive. Because Ang is known for her big personality, but not her business skills, she has hired Raquel, 28, to manage the Miami Monkey.
“I have different work ethics,” Raquel says. “She’s just like, ‘Okay, whatever, I’ll hire you. You need a job? Come to the Drunken Monkey.’
“She’s not so into, ‘Let’s check references.’ I don’t think she ever looked at a résumé. She just says, ‘I like you. You look good, you can work here.’ ”
Back on Staten Island, Ang greets customers by name when she enters her Forest Ave. bar. Trailing her is an adorable mop-topped tot, her 4-year-old grandson Sal, Raquel’s son. He’s toting a bag of Cocoa Puffs.
Primates are prominent in the dark bar. There’s a monkey clock and several paintings of monkeys enjoying alcohol on the walls. There’s one in pink lipstick and a leopard print frock, climbing a tree and clutching a martini glass with its foot.
Big Ang samples the goods at her Drunken Monkey bar on Staten Island.
“That one’s me,” says Big Ang, pointing to the primate.
Little Sal marvels at all the monkeys. Thanks to his grandmother, 53, he’s also a fan of music made long before he — and his mother — was born.
“We’re living in a time warp,” says Ang. “My grandson sings Lou Rawls’ ‘Groovy People.’ The kid’s 4. And he sings the Supremes — the music I listen to.”
Since Sal and his mom live downstairs in Big Ang’s two-family Shore Acres home, she gets to spend lots of time with him. Raquel works several jobs, so Ang and her husband Neil help with baby-sitting.
“They play,” says Raquel. “[Ang] lets him do whatever he wants. There are no rules. He’ll eat potato chips for breakfast. Candy, ‘You want chocolate? Okay, have it.’
Big Ang's daughter Raquel, here at the Drunken Monkey, will play a big role on "Miami Monkey."
“There’s a different toy every day,” Raquel adds. “My house is flooded with toys.”
As if on cue, Neil and Sal return to the bar from a nearby store with a bag full of new toys.
“See, not one toy, but five,” Raquel fumes. “My mother’s rubbing off on Neil. She goes above and beyond. There are no limits — especially with her grandson.”
While Ang’s son AJ has appeared in his mom’s other shows, “Mob Wives” and her first spinoff, “Big Ang,” this is Raquel’s TV series debut.
“She’s not into the ‘Mob Wives’ thing,” Ang explains. “We keep her out of that lifestyle.”
Ryan, a friend of Raquel's from New York, is part of the "Miami Monkey" cast, seen here at (and on) the South Beach bar.
Big Ang was cast on “Mob Wives” due to late uncle Salvatore "Sally Dogs" Lombardi being a former Genovese crime family captain.
“It wasn’t the right time,” Raquel says of choosing not to appear on that show.
Both Big Ang and her daughter are dressed head to toe in black, rebelling against the colorful outfits they wore — at the urging of producers — to tape “Miami Monkey.”
“Everything in my closet’s black,” says Ang. “I’m not into color. Because it’s Florida, they wanted us in bright turquoise shirts, orange shirts. I looked like f—ing Rainbow Brite!
“Get out of here with these clothes I had on. I will never wear a color again in my life. I’m wearing black forever. They had me in more colors — yellow pants, brown, all stripes, crazy designs. They said, ‘This is Florida.’ Well, I’m over that!”
Everything's bright and colorful at the Miami Monkey, setting of Big Ang's new VH1 reality show.
The heat down south was also an issue for Ang since the show taped May through August. But even worse was the flying back and forth each week from Florida to New York — where she’s also taping the upcoming season of “Mob Wives.”
“I’m so glad I hate flying,” Ang jokes. “I’m not a fan. I take half a Xanax. I get panic attacks. It’s not that I’m scared to fly. I don’t like the closed-in feeling. When they say they’re shutting the doors, all of a sudden the sweat comes over me.
“One time the panic attack was so bad, I had to stand in the back with the stewardess the whole flight. The lady goes, ‘You have to sit.’ ‘I am not sitting — that’s it!’ Then when they realized who I was, they said, ‘Have a glass of wine.’ They made me stand the whole three hours in the back.”
She has since gotten used to flying, and now feels better just knowing that the Xanax is in her purse.
The Miami Monkey looks nothing like its Staten Island cousin. The Florida outpost is modern and brightly colored, and attracts more tourists than regulars. On the show, Ang and Raquel hire several staffers for the bar, a mix of Raquel’s friends from New York and Miami nightlife vets.
Big Ang takes care of her customers at Staten Island's Drunken Monkey.
They include Raquel’s close friend Roxanne, who manages the Miami Monkey when Raquel’s in New York for her day job. Also from the Big Apple is Ryan, Raquel’s other best friend. A bartender, she clashes with Raquel in work situations and gives the Miami hires a hard time. There’s party girl Marissa, a waitress who admits she likes wearing “teeny clothes.” And Gabby, who’s dating Ang’s son AJ, is hired as a host.
In the middle of filming, Big Ang got a big surprise when it came to her son and Gabby.
“She’s having a baby,” Ang tell the Daily News. “Her and my son are doing very good. She’s due in March.”
In episode one, Gabby freaks out when Ang asks the staffers to wear red bikini tops decked out with a monkey. Ang was annoyed at the time, but understands now.
“I think Gabrielle was acting a little out of control because her hormones might have been off,” she reasons.
Rounding out the new bar staffers are Miami hires Morgan and Cristina, both bartenders, and Nate Ryan, a bartender-DJ-model-water sports instructor who all the girls go crazy for.
Most of the cast will have to get used to being recognized once “Miami Monkey” premieres, unlike Big Ang, who had a couple years’ practice with her other shows. But Raquel says her mom has always drawn attention.
“She was always a star in the room no matter where you were — especially at parent-teacher conferences,” Raquel recalls. “I was like, ‘Why is everybody looking at my mom?’
“All heads turned. People just always gravitated toward her, like she was born for this.”