NEW YORK - In a moment of levity amid an otherwise sobering talk about the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested to Dr. Anthony Fauci, a fellow Italian American, that the two of them channel the legendary actors Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in an ad to promote the taking of a forthcoming coronavirus vaccine.
"Maybe we enlist you, I'll do it with you — we'll do an ad telling New Yorkers it's safe to take the vaccine, to put us together," Cuomo said to Fauci on a videoconference on Monday. "We're like the modern-day De Niro and Pacino. You can be whichever one you want."
Fauci, the U.S. government's foremost expert on infectious diseases and a native New Yorker, laughed as he heard Cuomo's suggestion.
"You can be the De Niro or Pacino. Fauci and Cuomo," the governor said. "Who do you want to be: De Niro or Pacino?"
In a response that illustrated his well-known ability to navigate large egos, Fauci responded that he loves both Oscar-winning actors.
"I love them both. I don't want to insult one or the other," Fauci said. "If I say one, I don't want to hurt the feelings of the other, so either one."
Cuomo laughed and rhetorically replied, "Yeah, who's the politician?"
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The governor then asked Fauci, who grew up in Brooklyn but has lived in the Washington, D.C., area for decades, what New York City food he misses the most.
"Whenever I need some comfort food and I dream back on my days in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, the thing that comes to my mind are two things: a nice Nathan's hot dog and a really steaming pastrami sandwich," Fauci said. "That would be really great."
Fauci has been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. President-elect Joe Biden has asked Fauci to remain in that role but to also serve as his chief medical adviser on COVID-19.