Wednesday, July 01, 2009


Many of my Esteemed Readers are familiar with Big Night, a 1996 film in which Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub play brothers whose dream of running a restaurant is, alas, Not Working Out.

The problem is that, while the brothers are brilliant in the kitchen, mid-1950’s New Jersey is not ready for their authentic Italian cuisine. The local clientele wants plenty of red sauce, flaming dishes prepared tableside, and lounge singers. They get incensed when their risotto does not come with a side of spaghetti and meatballs. They are, in fine, idiots... and the brothers’ elegant dishes are as pearls before swine.

That’s the setup. I won’t divulge any more of the plot, but I will tell you that the movie also features Ian Holm as the brothers’ competitor Pascal (“Bite your teeth into the ass of life!”), who runs a “give ’em what they want” place down the street; Isabella Rossellini; and Minnie Driver. It’s a tragicomic tour de force, worth seeing for Ian Holm’s performance alone.

Big Night inspired our own “Big Night” a few days ago: a big-league Italian dinner followed by a screening of - what else? - Big Night.

She Who Must Be Obeyed makes a killer Baked Stuffed Shells, a dish that showcases her made-from-scratch tomato sauce. You’d hardly expect food like this to come from the kitchen of a Jewish girl from Foat Wuth, Texis, but SWMBO has the chops - thanks in small part to great-aunt Dorothy (who married an Italian guy way back when, and knew how to cook his favorite foods); and to Rose, a family friend of long standing.

To complement the Stuffed Shells, I made a pile of sautéed zucchini with Parmesan, along with rapini (broccoli rabe) with onions and garlic. SWMBO assembled a gigantic green salad, and I fixed up a loaf of roasted garlic bread.

All of this was washed down with a 2000-vintage Prunotto Barbaresco. Yummy!

Dessert? SWMBO served lemon sorbetto with fresh raspberries, a suitable coda to a superb Meal and Movie. Big Night, indeed!

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