The Goodfellas cast are watching you masturbate.

The Goodfellas cast is watching you masturbate.

Dinner was always a big thing in the joint.  We had a pasta course and then meat or fish.  Paulie did the prep work.  He was doing a year for contempt and he had a system for doing garlic.  He used a razor and he sliced it so thin it used to liquefy in the pan with a little oil.  Vinnie was in charge of the tomato sauce.  I felt he put in too many onions, but it was a good sauce, anyway.  Johnny Dio did the meat.  He didn’t have a broiler, so we did everything in pans.  He smelled up the joint something awful, and the hacks used to die.  Everybody else in the joint was doing real time, all mixed together, living like pigs.”
-Ray Liotta, as Henry Hill, in Goodfellas

I cut myself slicing the garlic like how the bad man told me to, and now I have a owie.”
The Chef’s Prerogative, after cutting his finger with a razor blade

Perhaps it’s because I’m a de facto Italian, but the cooking of my make-believe homeland has always struck me as being about more than just food.  One can’t overlook the copious amounts of meats, cheeses, and pastas, naturally; but Italian food, to me, seems to be about something more than just what’s on the plate.  I’m not going to wax too rhapsodic about the communal and celebratory nature of Italian feasts, but let’s just say that Italian feasts offer a respite for the soul from the burdensome weight foisted upon it by a cruel and despotic reality, allowing it to blossom into its true and evanescent nature, nurtured by food, family, and friends, and imbuing in its very nature that which heaven and joy have imparted at their union in that most sacred and special of places, through no less than a repast fit for Gods, but befitting of we mere mortals.  Also, it tastes good.

When I have people over for a night of greaseball Italian fun, you can bet your sweet, mocha ass I’m putting out a plate of antipasti, I’m wearing my badass gold chain, and I’m sure as hell not skimping on the Chianti that I make make in my bathtub (it tastes like going blind!).  After the guests arrive, I usher everyone into the kitchen with me, to help out and to help themselves to whatever sous chef Bruno hasn’t eaten off the table.  “But is there Frank Sinatra on, TCP?”  Hooo, boy – not only is there Frank Sinatra on, but as an added attraction, I’m singing along to “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” like I was at the fuckin’ Copa!  Shit, if you’re lucky enough to find yourself in my charming little apartment during Eye-tie dinner time, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s more than a little reminiscent of the Bacchanals in ancient Rome (mostly because everyone’s throwing up, afterwards.)  In other words, cooking a big Italian meal for friends and family is, perhaps, the best and most enjoyable use for a kitchen man has yet had the good fortune to devise.   Here’s how you can achieve such a raucous, wondrous night in your own home, right after you buy a fuckin’ cool track suit.

Primo – Antipasti

This guy's anti-pasti.  Get it?  Huh? What? Huh? Fuck you!

This guy's anti pasti. Get it? Huh? What? Huh? Fuck you!

Antipasti (Italian for “you can a-now commence-a the stuffing of-a you face”) is most commonly served as an appetizer platter of meats, olives, marinated vegetables, and Cheeses.  There are really no rules when it comes to preparing your platter, but keep in mind that your wife probably isn’t going to let you get away with describing the three pounds of sausage on your plate as “an appetizer.”  The key to a good antipasti plate, much like making your college seem more inclusive by photo-shopping a black dude and an Asian chick onto the cover of your admissions brochure, is diversity.  By “diversity,” I mean, of course, “an ass-load of prosciutto and half a shit-ton of cheese.”  The simple fact is that prosciutto, in my opinion, goes so far in its succulence as to push in on bacon’s territory (if only slightly) as king of the delicious pork applications.  If I ever learn that kids in Italy get prosciutto and cheese sandwiches packed in their school lunch bags, I’m going to be seriously pissed off.  Although, when I picture an Italian kid at recess, I see him smoking an imported Marlboro Red, drinking a glass of wine, and making kissing noises at the girls, so I guess it kind of fits.  Fits like a glove made out of stereotypes.

Primo – Pasta

The Chinese may have invented pasta, but the Italians were the ones to put pancetta and cheese in it.  Advantage: Italia.  How could you not think of that, China?!?!

The Chinese may have invented pasta, but the Italians were the ones to put pancetta and cheese in it. Advantage: Italia. How could you not think of that, China?!?!

Unlike that pasta bowl you just ordered from Domino’s, the pasta course in a traditional Italian meal probably won’t feature a ton of meat, seafood, or poultry (nor unlimited breadsticks, I’m being told.)  And, while you may view the pasta, itself, as a mere conveyance with which to get that cream sauce from the plate to your glutton-hole, Italians take pride in the intrinsic deliciousness of the noodle.  I try to make my pasta from scratch as often as possible, but with me being lazy and that shit being hard, I’m often wont to opt for the dried stuff, instead.  For the vast majority of home cooks, this is a better option than getting out your stand mixer, coating your entire kitchen with flour, watching the Reds’ season implode, and punching walls and pets when you realize that you did all that work for nothing (it’s kind of a metaphor for life, in that way.)  Because Italian feasts generally equal the caloric intake of an entire African nation – approximately 10,000 calories (sorry, Africa)  – I like to make the pasta course fairly light.  Make a simple sauce of crushed San Marzanos, garlic, bay leaf, oregano, thyme, parsley, and salt and pepper.  And, as always, kids, just put a little sauce in a pan and toss in the pasta with a little of the water.  Serve with bread you painstakingly bought at Ralph’s.

Secondo – Meat or Fish

The Fishes.  Luca Brasi Sleeps With Them.

The Fishes. Luca Brasi Sleeps With Them.

Now that you’ve already eaten a full dinner, it’s time for the main course!  Generally speaking, the main course in an Italian dinner is comprised of cigarettes and tight pants, but for our purposes we’ll focus on the more traditional option of meat or fish (or meat stuffed with fish, if you’re having dinner at John Madden’s house and actually think this joke is funny.)  Sausage, game, poultry, or even more prosciutto is great, and all, but I’m a big fan of roasting a whole fish for this course.  This is mostly due to the fact that it makes me look like an honest-to-goodness chef, but also because I like the idea of serving my guests something that features pin bones (because at least one of them, at some point, will spill wine on my floor, that’s why.)  The great thing about roasting a whole fish is that it’s easy and allows for lots of freedom in terms of seasoning, type of fish, and lying about how you caught the thing yourself.  Take a fish and place it in foil.  Add oil, a drizzle of white wine, salt and pepper, and lemon.  Stuff the cavity with herbs of your choosing, you sick bastard.  Make four slits half-way to the bone, cover with foil, making a large packet, and bake at 450 for 35 to 45 minutes.  Bangzo!  You’ve now got a nice, whole fish that you can serve family style.  And because we’re talking about Italian food, here, you have full license to make some inane and unfunny reference to “sleeping with the fishes,” just like I did up there, because we’re totally the only ones who thought of that.

Dolce – Conclusion

La Dolce Vita

This is Anita Ekberg, from Fellini's La Dolce Vita. She's from Sweden, a place that doesn't have any food, let alone Italian food, but I'm not going to let that insignificant fact preclude her inclusion in this post. I'm nothing if not a champion of diversity. And boobs.

By now you know that I don’t do desserts (unless they’re dressed provocatively and promise to leave afterward), so I’ll just use this section to wrap up the post.  Big, Italian dinners are a great way to get together with friends and family, and have them eat all your food and never thank you for cooking, even though you spent $150 at Whole Foods, and stood in front of the stove all day, which wasn’t all that comfortable, because it was hot last weekend, and I don’t have air conditioning, and, also, I think the cat I adopted is probably crazy and bites me when I try to pet her, which really doesn’t have anything to do with anything, but fuck it, I’m on a roll.

Oh, sure, she looks cute and all in her little basket, but I can assure you that, in reality, she's a hate machine built out of claws and fangs.

Oh, sure, she looks cute and all in her little basket, but I can assure you that, in reality, she's a hate machine built out of claws and fangs.

So, anyway, grab your friends and family, put some gel in that hair, talk with your hands, lose your temper because someone looked at you wrong, and make some Guido magic in your very own home.  And, remember, nothing goes better with Italian food than aggressively oggling pretty girls and telling them “Eh-oh, if you like dat sausage, hon, I got sumthin’ ovah heah you really gonna like,” while grabbing your crotch.  P.S. If that doesn’t get you laid, nothing will.  Mangiare!

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"Cat? What cat? I don't know nothin' about no cat."

My ethno-geneological makeup is predominantly British, but because I’ve seen The Godfather over two hundred times, like to blatantly ogle and cajole pretty girls, and have hit someone in the face with a chair just because they looked at me wrong, I’m pretty that makes me at least 95% Italian.  Add in the fact that my truly Italian friend and I used to drive past Sam Giancana’s house in Cicero, and I’m practically a made man, to boot.  Hell, I’ve actually been to the Old Country a couple of times, too, and have even dated a girl from Palermo who, I’m pretty sure, is going to unexpectedly stab me sometime in the future.  She’s probably planning it right now – that’s just how blatantly Italian my predilections are.  But these predilections aren’t merely limited to my hot temper, slicked-back hair, and fuckin’ cool track suit.  No, they go beyond the aesthetic and barrel full-bore into the culinary.  I love reading old Italian cookbooks, picking the brains of elderly Italian family chefs, and adore watching Giada Di Laurentiis’ rack cook up a nice ravioli on the Food Network.  You’ll always know you’re at a Chef’s Prerogative party as soon as you see the veritable feast of Italian meats, cheeses, wines, and roofies in your drink.  And, even though I love a good lasagna or cannoli, my favorite Italian meal is the Sunday feast of spaghetti and meatballs with homemade gravy.  It’s simple, sure, but then again so is “put penis in vagina, remove, repeat.”

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Giada's beauty commands me to kill. But first, to masturbate.

What I like most about this time-intensive meal is that you can drink a lot while making it.  Your friends and family would be wont to worry if they caught you chillin’ on the couch at ten in the morning, nursing a scotch, watching a Scrubs marathon on Comedy Central.  Nurse that scotch while patiently stirring a rich gravy at ten in the morning, however, and. . . well, they’re still likely to worry, but fuck them, because you’re the chef, Goddamit.  In all seriousness, there’s nothing better than gathering all your friends and family around you in the kitchen, putting on Ol’ Blue Eyes’ Live At The Sands, opening several bottles of Chianti, and telling every one how they’ve let you down, each in their own special way.  It’s truly magical.

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"Ha ha ha ha ha ha. You're adopted."

A quick note on this meal:  I’m generally one to cook lighter, more traditional, seafood-based Italian cuisine; but I’ll be honest with you – every once in a while I just get a hankering for some red-checkered table cloth, Bayonne-type Guido shit.  I make sure that my gravy has tons of meat, that my meatballs are big and rich, and that my gun is well concealed.  I also like to have a bunch of courses, just like they do in It-lee, but I don’t feel like writing a long post today, so go look it up.  Also, Your soundtrack is going to need lots of Louie Prima, Dino, and The Chairman.  For added authenticity, invite some crazy Italian broads over and have them threaten to cut you if you cheat on them.  Anyway, on to the cookin’, you fuckin’ mook. 

Buy dis shit, you rat bastahd:

Olive oil
Pork, Lamb, Beef
Sausage
Garlic
Tomato paste
San Marzano peeled tomatoes
Water
Basil, salt, pepper
Eggs
Parmigiano-Reggiano, Peocrino Romano
Parsley
Onions
Bread crumbs (non-seasoned)

Cook, You Motherless Fucking Mutt

Let’s start out with the sauce: sweat onions and garlic in some olive oil.  Throw in the tomatoes and tomato paste.  Oh, shit – actually, brown the sausage before you sweat the onions.  Okay, so then just season and let it simmer.  Also, I like to put just a little dried oregano in there, as well, and while I do, I like to say the word “oregano” in a British accent and pronounce it “Oh-ray-gone-o.”  I don’t know why I do this.  In a bowl, combine your three meats with two eggs, bread crumbs, parsley, onions, your cheeses, minced garlic, some olive oil, and a touch of water.  Mix that shit up and roll into balls the size of my testicles.  If you’re not sure how big that is, just go ask your mother.  Brown those in some oil, then throw ’em in the sauce. 

a

"Oi, wass wrong wif cawlin' it oh-ray-gone-oh? Ass how it's pronounced, innit? Answah cayfully, mate, I don't wanna hafta shoot two blokes in the face, today, yeah?"

After cooking your sauce for several hours, peel yourself up from the kitchen floor, finish that fifth bottle of wine, and start the pasta.  I normally make my own pasta, but I’m way better at this than you are, so go ahead and just stick with the boxed kind (I prefer the thick spaghetti.)  Once you get it al dente, toss with some of the pasta water and gravy in a hot pan.  Plate with a few meatballs, some fresh parsley, and an ass-load of cheese.  Sit down with your gathered friends and family and discuss how, while you may have your differences, you can all agree that a good meal can be transcendent, that blood truly is thicker than water, and that the city of Pittsburgh can go eat a big bag of dicks.

 

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See? Even Mapquest thinks so.