WITH SOPRANO SUE
RE “THE SOPRANO FAMILY COOKBOOK”
You've written several other books, can you give us some background about the other books.
This is my second Sopranos book. The first, “The Sopranos: A Family History,” came out in 2000, was updated in 2001, and will be updated again in 2003. Its original title was “The Sopranos: The Whole F**king Story,” but HBO put the kibosh on that tout de suite.
I’ve also penned two satirical books with Martin Mull, “The History of White People In America,” and its sequel, “A Paler Shade of White.” They are about growing up rootless and addled-brained in the American Midwest.
The new cookbook focuses on what region of Italian Cooking?
As Newark librarian (and closet Soprano groupie) Natalie Del Greco explains in Chapter One of the book, Sopranos food is Neapolitan food, i.e., food from southern Italy in and around Naples. Tony’s family hails from Avellino, one province over, but they all eat the same food down there – simple, fresh, wholesome grub, not that complicated stuff they make up in Tuscany.
You have a co author with this book, can you give us a little background on her?
All the recipes in the book were compiled by Michele Scicolone, a fabulous food writer whose forefathers come from the same region of Italy. If you like this book, check out her many other books on Italian cooking. She grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Enough said.
What is your favorite recipe in the book?
Favorite recipe name: Uova in Purgatorio, or Eggs in Purgatory. Ralphie’s probably having some right now. Favorite recipe: probably Risotto with Truffles and Champagne, although I would also strongly recommend the rice balls.
Is there such a thing as a vegetarian in Sopranos/Italian culture?
Janice claims to be an I-A vegetarian but if so, it hasn’t helped her waistline that much. Actually Southern Italians are big, big vegetable eaters and were at one point called “mangiafoglie,” or leaf eaters, by snooty Northerners. The Southerners in turn called their Northern friends “Germans.” Ouch.
How does food add to the story?
As Artie says in the intro of the book, “Food is la gioia di vivere, zest for life...family, tradition, birth, confirmation, marriage, sickness, death – life itself.” Plus Tony has a neurotic fixation on meat.
Will the book change the way Americans eat on Sunday night?
“The Sopranos” has already changed the way Americans eat on Sunday night. The book was inspired in part by the many letters from fans saying they loved to cook dinner for friends and watch the show. We just figured they should be eating the same gabagool that Tony is eating on the other side of the screen.
Did you travel to Italy to do research?
Only in my mind.
What challenges did you face writing a TV cookbook?
First, I can’t cook. That was a severe handicap until we found Michele. Second, we didn’t want to do a standard cookbook so we decided that Artie Bucco should compile the recipes and ask for commentary from his close personal NJ friends. Artie readily consented, figuring it would draw more Tri-Staters to his ristorante. The rest was a labor of love and manicott’.
What is the difference between Gravy and Sauce?
Sauce is what mayonnaisers buy in a jar and slop on spaghetti. Gravy is what an Italian granny makes every Sunday for her 26 in-laws.
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