Food In Film – Big Night

Just recently Karen asked me if we had seen any episodes from the show Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy. In the show he travels around Italy and explores the country’s regional cuisines – well that sounded like a great show for a food blogger! I told her no, but that we would add it to our long list of backlogged things we would like to watch.

Life with a 6 year old son usually leaves me with little time for TV as I often find myself doing things with him like flying kites, hitting tennis balls off of the garage door or running around with his toy lightsabers (ok… one of them is actually mine) while pretending to be in some scene from a Star Wars movie and I wouldn’t have it any other way! Those moments and the memories we create together as a family are worth more than anything to me.

I told Karen it was interesting timing that she happened to mentioned Stanley Tucci because we had just recently watched the movie Big Night starring him and another favorite of ours, Tony Shalhoub. My wife Lori had been wanting to see the movie for some time and I had seen it many years before and remembered enjoying it and was interested in watching it again.

It is the tale of two brothers who came to America with the dream of starting their own restaurant. It takes place in the 1950s at the New Jersey shore and at the opening of the film their restaurant named “Paradise” is already open, but struggling to gain popularity.

The older brother is named Primo and the younger Secondo. I remember my mother telling me about this movie and her finding that particularly hilarious and it really is when you stop and realize that the translation from Italian to English is first and second!

Primo is the chef and Secondo handles the business side of the restaurant. In a effort to try and keep their failing establishment alive, Secondo speaks to a man he befriended who owns a very popular Italian restaurant on the same block. Pascal, the owner of the other restaurant, admits that his food isn’t as good as Primo’s, but because he knows many big name people it has helped to make his restaurant a successful hot spot.

Secondo asks Pascal for a loan because they are running out of money and their restaurant may not survive much longer. Pascal turns him down, but does offer his help in another way – he arranges for one of his big name patrons – the Italian-American singer, songwriter, bandleader and trumpeter Louis Prima – to come to dinner at their restaurant.

The brothers set out preparing and cooking up a storm to impress their guest on their big night… and this is where I’ll leave you hanging! I don’t want to give away what happens in case you’ve never seen the movie and would like to watch – if not and you just want to know how it ends, swing over to Wikipedia and find out!

One thing you can easily imagine is how much fine looking authentic Italian food they prepare for that big night. Seeing this movie again now that we have this blog really made me view the whole thing in a different way – I enjoyed the story again, but I viewed all of that amazing food in a whole new light!

I have a bucket list of recipes that I consider to be reach projects that I would like to try and make some day – I imagine just about anyone that likes to cook does. A few things on that list are a Croquembouche (a sort of awesome tree shaped tower of cream puffs), a Buche de Noel (I’ve tried once or twice… rolling up that flat little cake without breaking it is more challenging than it seems) and Julia Child’s recipe for Beef Bourguignon just to name a few… Watching Big Night again has added yet another item to that list!

That new item is the amazing showpiece dish they prepare for their big night called Timpano. Picture if you will a huge display prepared in a very large baking dish consisting of many layers of ingredients all wrapped up in a giant pasta sheet. What makes up the layers inside? Ziti, meatballs, hard boiled eggs, provolone cheese, Genoa salami, grated Romano cheese and each set of layers is topped with a rich ragù sauce.

Cutting into this creation if done correctly is an impressive visual display and it is certainly not your everyday meal, this is something that is truly an experience to be eaten slowly and enjoyed! Will I ever attempt such a creation? Who knows! Maybe one day I’ll start slowly by making one 1/4 or 1/3 the size of the original recipe! If you Google Timpano Big Night you will no doubt come across the recipe on the NY Times Cooking site – they feature the recipe which comes right from Tucci’s cookbook.

On that note, thanks to Fandango’s movie clips, I’ll leave you now with the scene where Primo and Secondo remove the Timpano from the pan and slice it up for their guests – fair warning if there are children within earshot – after tasting it, Pascal uses a few words you may not wish for them to hear!

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