It all started with Pete Clemenza and The Godfather, a movie by Italian-American director
Francis FOrd Coppola. Yes, I guess we can say it started with Francis. It was Francis Ford Coppola who wrote the Screenplay along with the author of the Best Selling Novel - The Godfather, Mr. Mario Puzo, also an Italian-American. Coppola was the co author of The Godfather Screenplay along with Puzo. And it was Coppola who was the films director and decided what would be in the film and what wasn't.
Coppola brilaintly sets the scene of Sonny Corleone meeting with his Capo's and other Corleone Crime Family associates, discussing strtegies of their next moves after Virgil Sollozzo puts out a hit on Sonny's father, Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brand). The attempted assasination of Vito Corleone fails, and Vito Corleone is still alive, as his son Santino (Sonny) becomes the acting Boss of the Corleone Crime Family.
As Sonny and his cronies discuss what to do, sitting around eating Chinese Food, his Capo, Peter Clemenza is making a pot of Italian Sunday Sauce Gravy with Sausages & Meatballs. Sonny's younger brother Michael (Al Pacino) is in the room as well. He gets a call from his girlfriend Dianne, who ask Michael if she loves him. Michael doesn't say it, but Clemenza being the smart old guy that he is, knows what has been said, and says, "Why don't you tell that nice girl you Love her. I Love you with all of my Heart. If I don't again soon, I'ma gonna Die" Clemenza chuckles.
Clemenza continues cooking his Sauce, then says to Michael, "Come over here kid. Learn something. You never know when you're gonna to cook for 20 guys someday? You see? You start out with a little oil. Then you fry some Garlic. Then you throw in some Tomatoes, some Tomato Paste, you fry it up. You make sure it doesn't stick. You get it to a boil. You shove in all your Sausage, and your Meatballs. Add a little bit of wine. And a little sugar, and that's my trick."
Yes, Clemenza making Sunday Sauce and Meatballs was a favorite scene which just about everyone recalls and talks about, and for good reasons. It's a great scene. But let us not forget some other scenes that included Italian food. At Connie Corleone's Wedding, we have a Corleone associate throwing a Gabagool Sandwich to Paulie (watch the video below).
Also, let's not forget Sonny tearing off a piece of Italian Bread, dipping it into the Sauce that Sonny's mother has simmering on the stove. Then Sonny eats it. There are a couple scenes when the the wole Corleone Family is eating at the table. There's the scene when Connie has cooked a meal for herself and her husband Carlo. One of Carlo's girlfriends (Goomada) calls up asking for Carlo. Connie picks up the phone, then her and Carlo start fighting.
Another memorable scene that involved Italian Food was the meeting between Michael, Virgil Sollozzo, and Captain McCluskey at Louie's Italian Restaurant in the Bronx. The three of them are sitting around the table when McCluskey asked Sollozzo, "How the Italian Food in this Restaurant?"
Sollozzo replies, "Get the Veal. It's the best in the City"
Michael Corleone goes into the bathroom, and gets the gun that is planted for him inside the bathroom, above the toilet. Michael comes back out into the dining room and shoots and kills both Sollozzo and Captain McCluskey. The calmly drops the gun, and walks out of the restaurant.
In the annals of Italian Food in movies, Stanley Tucci's Big Night is way up near the top. Some would probably put it on the top of their list. Yes when it comes to Italian Food in movies, Big Night is a heavyweight. The movie centers around two brothers from Italy, in their Italian Restaurant on the Jersey Shore, Louis Prima, and a monumental dish of Southern Italy, known as a Timpano (aka Timballo).
The brothers restaurant is not doing that well financially. The food is very good, but this is the 1950s, and the locals don't get Chef Primo's authentic Italian Food. When a fellow (rival) restaurant owner tells brothers Scondo (Stanley Tucci) and Primo that he knows the famous Sicilian-American singer Louis Prima, and that he is going to get him to come to the brothers restaurant, this get the ball rolling on a very special dinner hosted by the brothers, featuring Chef Primo's wonderful food, and the centerpiece of the meal, The Timpano, a luxurious dish made of baked maccheroni, meats, sauce, and cheeses stuffed into a dough shell that's baked in a pan called a "Timpano" by which the dish gets his name.
The movie stars Stanley Tucci as Secondo, Tony Shaloub as Primo, Secondo's brother, Isabella Rossellini as Gabriella, with Minnie Driver, and Marc Anthony as the busboy.
The wonderful music, fine cast, and the scenes preparing the Timapno and other dishes is superb, and it's these scenes that captivated audiences, and inspired to make their very own Big Night Style Italian Dinner Parties. The rest is history, and people still talk about Big Night, the Timpano, and wonderful Italian Dinner.
Johnny (Frank Pelligrino Sr,) & Vinny (Charlie Scorsese)
DINNER in PRISON
There are several Italian Food scenes in Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas, a true life story of factions of the New York Mafia members and associates, based on Nick Pellegi's book Wiseguy. Of course the most famous food scene is when Henry (Ray Liotta) is in Prison with Vinny (Charlie Scorsese), Johnny Dio, and "Big Paulie" (Paul Sorvino). Viiny is making the Sunday Sauce Italian Gravy with Meatballs and Pork Neck, as Johnny Dio cooks up some Steaks. The scene is quite memorable, and people talk about it all the time, especially the way Paul Sorvino shaves the Garlic "Ravor Thin" with a ravor, and Big Paulie telling Vinny, "Vinny don't put too many Onions in the Sauce." You gotta just Love it?
The scene with Henry making Veal Scallopine and his brother stirring "The Sauce" is memorable as well.
So if you Love Movies, Italian Food, and Italian Food in movies, there's a good chance you already know these films and the Food Scenes in them, and if you're like me, you talk about them, and watch the movies over and over again. When you've got something good, you stick with it. And that's The Godfather, Coppola and Pacino, Clemenza and his Sauce. Big Night Stanley Tucci and The Timpano, and Marty Scorsese's Goodfellas, Robert DeNiro, The Prison Sauce, and the main character Henry Hill, and the late great Ray Liotta, who turned in such a great performance, he was even better than DeNiro. "Yes he was."
Watch the movies, enjoy, make a Sunday Sauce, and listen to Sinatra. What's better than that?
Alfredo James Pacino is an American actor and filmmaker. Considered one of the most influential actors of the 20th century, he has received numerous accolades: including an Academy Award, two Tony Awards, and two Primetime Emmy Awards, making him one of the few performers to have achieved the Triple Crown of Acting.
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