The on-screen relationship between food and the Mafia is rather a tasty one. From the infamous scene in The Godfather where Clemenza teaches Michael how to cook for a large group when they need to “hit the mattresses”, to Tommy’s mother fixing up a midnight feast in the middle of a murder in Goodfellas. You can almost smell the food through the screen.
Italian American heritage is very closely related to their cuisine, with the dinner table the focal point of their tight patriarchal families, something that has permeated cinema with various depictions of their criminal compatriots. You could argue that the two biggest exports from Italy that came with the first immigrants were food and the "Cosa Nostra" criminal influence.
Sicily is certainly the spiritual home for both of these elements and America has benefited and suffered more than most for their transference across the Atlantic. Perhaps it was the ease of money laundering through butchers and restaurants or the fact that most of their fare was superior to the local grub, but food and crime have long walked hand-in-hand.
Another great demonstration of this marriage was developed on the small screen in the inimitable "Don" of long-form television, The Sopranos. The Soprano family and all the colourful characters that surround them have an incredibly close relationship with food, and its frank portrayal of everyday mobster life shows the huge social importance of food and drink.
Celebrations were never complete without Limoncello, Tony spent at least five minutes of each episode cramming Gabagool in his face, and who could forget hapless Arti Buco and his many delicious-looking pasta dishes.
Henry Hill, who was played in Goodfellas by Ray Liotta, actually opened a restaurant (after coming out of witness protection) where he would sling his Sunday Gravy sauce with the infamous razor-garlic that Don Paulie taught him. Incidentally, the real life Don Paulie (Paul Vario) died in jail after being convicted due to Henry’s testimony, so there is no way of telling if he is doing it right. Even Scorsese's mother, who plays Tommy’s mother in Goodfellas, would cook her famous pasta for the cast on set.
And don’t get me started on the relationship with alcohol. Between the wine, cocktails and beer consumed on screen it is safe to say this is a huge part of the culture as well. In fact the only non-alcoholic drink that mobsters seem to like is coffee - which they imbibe in prodigious quantities. Try drinking along with Goodfellas for example; emulating the consumption of Jimmy the Gent (Robert De Niro) alone will get you into serious trouble.
Whatever crimes they perpetrate, the next meal is never far from their minds and the vivid depictions of Italian cuisine across the incredible cannon of mobster films is positively mouth-watering. If this is something that you agree with, then you should come along to the latest Feed Me Films screening, Foodfellas, on April 11th in London.
We will serve 5 courses of themed food along with 4 alcoholic drinks. The event is sponsored by Campari to ensure the Americanos and Aperol Spritzs are of the quality they should be. Tickets available here.