“There’s a reason that this genre film never worked. It must be ethnic to the core—you must smell the spaghetti. That’s what brought the magic to the novel—it was written by an Italian.”
With those words former studio head and all-around colorful character Robert Evans explained how director Francis Ford Coppola came to helm The Godfather. Spaghetti, as Evans foresaw, played an important role in the film, as the scene where Clemenza makes sauce remains a classic. It’s also such an essential part of American dining that our nation celebrates National Spaghetti Day, a fact that thankfully allows us to forget that January is National Oatmeal Month.
If you want to smell the spaghetti some more, open up Simone Cinotto‘s release The Italian American Table, a popular UIP dish (“It’s the best in the city”) that follows the winding yet delicious strand of angel hair that linked food and family. Cinotto does nothing less than recreate the bustling world of Italian life in New York City. Along the way he demonstrates how food was at the center of the lives of immigrants and their children, shows how these people created a food culture most of us cannot live without, and ponders the parts played by food production, preparation, and consumption in immigrant communities.
Let’s be honest. You’re probably ready to boil you up a pot of spaghetti right now or maybe order some via takeout. Good idea! Once you finish Cinotto’s book, why not add to your ethnic week by holding a film festival informed by two more of our books? Jeff Menne penned Francis Ford Coppola, exploring how Sofia’s dad attempted a new way of filmmaking, while Hollywood’s Italian American Filmmakers gives film scholar Jonathan J. Cavallero room to examine how Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarentino, and other filmic pezzonovantes related to their ethnicity in their works.