Monday 19 March 2018

How to feast like a Soprano

A new cookbook is making all sorts of offers we can't refuse, writes Deirdre Reynolds

Marone! It's more than five years since The Sopranos cut to black, leaving fans everywhere wondering about the fate of James Gandolfini's troubled gangster.

Now it seems Tony Soprano is alive and well in homes around Ireland.

A DVD box-set bulging with all 86 episodes of the hit HBO series was still one of the most coveted pressies for guys over the festive season, according to stores here.

"The Sopranos Complete Series 1-6 DVD box set remains one of our best sellers on back catalogue," says Gennaro Castaldo of HMV Ireland.

"Given that the show has gone on to become such a cult classic, the box set is now considered a collector's item.

"Fans are still absorbing every last second of The Sopranos."

But it's not just the small screen.

Foodies across the land are also feasting like third-generation Italian-American Tony this new year after a cookbook inspired by the show turned up under Christmas trees, too.

The Sopranos Family Cookbook, written in the voice of Vesuvio owner Artie Bucco, pictured, but really penned by author Allen Rucker and chef Michele Scicolone, features recipes for all of the waste management consultant's favourite dishes, including baked ziti and 'pasta fazool'.

As Tony himself might say: "Are you f***ing kidding me?"

Think of The Sopranos, and the murky outcomes of Christopher, Big Pussy and even Tony's horse Pie-O-My first spring to mind – not wholesome family cuisine.

But given that the mafia boss spent as much time on the show stuffing his face as he did on Dr Melfi's couch or whacking people, maybe it's not such a surprising Italian connection.

Stateside, The Sopranos Family Cookbook has already sold 500,000 copies, with experts praising the authenticity of the recipes.

Both the show's creator David Chase and the book's co-author Scicolone, whose families originate near Naples, grew up on southern Italian grub – just like the Sopranos.

"Whenever anyone on the show would say sfogliatella, they'd be bombarded with requests for a recipe," recalls Scicolone.

"There were very specific recipes that (Chase) wanted, either from his family or from his memory or that played an important part in the show."

It's not the first time that the success of a TV show has been parlayed into cookbook sales. Back in 1979, Harper Collins published The Little House Cookbook featuring 100 pioneer dishes inspired by Little House on the Prairie.

In 1995, Cooking with Friends offered recipes for, groan, "comfort foods for when 'it hasn't been your day, your week, your month, or even your year'", such as 'Misery Meatloaf' with a generous side of Friends dialogue and snaps.

Meanwhile, True Blood: Eats, Drinks and Bites from Bon Temps has also just hit shelves here.

"I grew up in a small town in the South, so fried chicken, grits and succotash were a part of life," explains True Blood creator Alan Ball.

"My mother's green bean casserole holds a very dear place in my heart.

"So when I sat down to write a show about the people of Bon Temps, Louisiana, it was no wonder that so much of their lives would revolve around food."

The Beverly Hillbillies, Coronation Street and, most recently, Treme are just some of the other food-filled TV shows that have landed their own cookbook over the years.

But are tie-in cookbooks such a good idea?

After all, there's a lot of cooking in Breaking Bad – just not the type that would make it into a family cookbook.

"Readers won't just buy any old cookbook," says Ide Ward of Hodges Figgis on Dawson Street, Dublin 2. "TV chef and show cookbooks are 10 a penny these days, so it has to have something different for foodies to gravitate towards.

"The Sopranos lends itself to being turned into cookbook because it's centred around family and eating, as well as the Italian connection.

"It sold extremely well – we even had some chefs looking for a copy.

'A Desperate Housewives cookbook and Mad Men cocktail book are also popular," she adds. "Recession plays a big part in it – more people are eating in than out."

Sopranos star James Gandolfini (51) says he's not surprised fans still have an appetite for the award-winning series, which first aired in 1999.

"I still get people shouting 'Tony' at me in the street," says the dad of two.

"I was living well under the radar and then the monstrosity of The Sopranos came along.

"But it was a wonderful opportunity, and I guess it was my big break."

Five years after the Soprano family memorably shared a bowl of "the best onion rings in the state" at Holsten's diner, neither the show's creator nor its stars have ruled out a reunion.

In the meantime, at least fans here can chew the fat over that famous final scene.

Irish Independent

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