In what is quite possibly the most fun of all the Sopranos -themed titles being published in time for the show's September return, this tongue-in-cheek cookbook brings homestyle Soprano family cooking to the table. Artie Bucco, the character played by John Ventimiglia who is the chef at the show's Vesuvio restaurant, sets the tone of this book of insider "family" secrets by explaining his family's move from Campania, Italy, to New Jersey, then turns to various Soprano characters. While the book's conceit is playfully written by Rucker The Sopranos: A Family History in the voice of each character, the recipes, by Scicolone Italian Holiday Cooking , are solid and honest-to-goodness Italian-American dishes. Even the godfather himself, Tony Soprano, lectures on the art of the grill fans will remember his BBQ panic attack. In the end, readers are left with a book—filled with stills from Soprano episodes—that is alternately enticing and wonderfully tacky, just like the Soprano family members themselves.
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It's been over a month of solo self-quarantine, and the solitude, which felt fine at first, has become frequently miserable. I can feel the parents who might be reading this rolling their eyes, though, and I don't blame them. Although it's a huge privilege to be responsible only for myself right now, it's also a recipe for stress and anxiety.
Stephanie Cacioppo told Vogue in March. Of course, this way of living won't last forever, but while it does, I've been distracting myself by using the large swaths of free time afforded to me by quarantine to cook. On its face, this is a constructive activity—I'm feeding myself, absorbed in the tasks of chopping, peeling, blending, and baking. But with the now seemingly infinite space in my mind, I'm also falling into a dangerously familiar rut. Even as I foray into new frontiers of cuisine—maybe I'll try a braise this week, or even attempt fermentation —I find myself looking for dishes with as few calories involved as possible, logging everything I do eat in a weight-loss app, and, most significantly, daydreaming about shedding pounds.
The "logic" behind a quarantine diet is seductive. Why not use a long stretch of boredom and solitude to get healthier? But that reasoning is actually a major danger for people like myself, whose struggles with disordered eating are being exacerbated by solitude. They thrive in these conditions," eating-disorder support group coordinator Ruthie Friedlander told Vogue in March. Not to mention those not-funny Covid15 jokes. Seriously, stop making those. I know dieting isn't emotionally healthy for me, but with little other distraction available, it's the thorny place my mind keeps coming back to.
In my normal life, food is so much more than anxiety fodder—I plan epic dim sum crawls with my friends, I dig into office-provided cake to celebrate colleagues' birthdays, I buy hot chocolate after runs in Prospect Park.
Alone and isolated, though, I've reverted to a problematic mindset that casts food as "the enemy," and it's particularly hard to shake without the company of friends and loved ones to snap me out of it. So I've been slapping together boring salads and flavorless soups with little regard for the idea that food could actually provide some excitement in my current situation.
But when I decided to begin my fifth consecutive rewatch of the HBO series The Sopranos last week—I do have a lot of at-home time on my hands—a thrilling idea occurred to me as I watched long-suffering matriarch Carmela Soprano serve eggplant parm. What if I allowed myself to take as much pleasure in my food as the Soprano family did in theirs? He's the perfect name to put on the cover, but so many other characters could have fit the bill.
The cans of whole peeled tomatoes looked like sturdy barrels nestled amongst garlands of parsley and papery cloves of garlic; the plump mozzarella shone, flanked by containers of Pecorino and ricotta. I was alone, but the rich food, the dark-hued wine and the old-school music all added up to good company. Was this how Artie felt in the Vesuvio kitchen? Forty-five minutes later, when my manicotti finally came out of the oven, I was stunned at the results. I texted my friends photos, thinking about how proud Carmela and Artie—not to mention my distant Italian relatives—would be of me.
It's powerful to know I can trust myself to cook the way I've always dreamed of, even in isolation; I might be alone, but at least I'm not alienated from my own desires. Once the manicotti had cooled, I selected a favorite blue-and-white ceramic plate from the cupboard, carved out a hefty portion of Parmesan-topped pasta, refilled my wine glass and dug in. As I ate, I was reminded of a quote from writer Nora Ephron who, as it happens, had her own fictional mob ties; she was married to Nick Pileggi, the journalist whose true crime book Wiseguy was adapted into Goodfellas , and would occasionally field calls from mobster Henry Hill.
Then I sat down in front of the television set and ate it. I felt very brave and plucky as I ate my perfect dinner. Eating a meal for four that I had cooked for myself was probably equally pathetic, but it never crossed my mind. I make it a rule to agree with Ephron about almost everything—although there's nothing wrong with, say a tub of Chobani—and I loved cooking with abandon for just me, for the first time in years.
My dalliance with the Sopranos Family Cookbook felt celebratory, even though there had been no special occasion attached, just another isolated Tuesday. Hopefully, just keeping the book propped up in my kitchen will inspire me—to paraphrase another mob classic —to leave the guilt, take the manicotti.
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The Sopranos Family Cookbook: As Compiled by Artie Bucco
I didn't care about the "Sopranos", but as I was glancing through this book 2 recipes caught my eye; Ricotta Pineapple Pie, Stuffed Quail Nuovo Vesuvio. The "family" restaurant, redefined. Home to the finest in Napolitan' cuisine and Essex County's best kept secret. Now Artie Bucco, la cucina's master chef and your personal host, invites you to a special feast
THE SOPRANOS FAMILY COOKBOOK: As Compiled by Artie Bucco
The rosemary is subtle and draws out an earthy flavour in the veal. These are at their best when grilled over charcoal. The provimi veal chops from Tortera were outstanding — super tender and juicy. Definitely a simple recipe to be used again and again.
Sopranos Cookbook, First Edition