Movies about Food: Big Night (1996)


Stanley Tucci, Marc Anthony, and Tony Shaloub, wondering what to do with the timpano.

In celebration of Thanksgiving, the remainder of this month will be dedicated to movies about food.

Big Night, also known as Big Night in Little Italy, is an engaging character study of two Italian brothers who emigrate to 1950’s America in order to make it as restauranteurs in New Jersey.  Primo (Tony Shaloub from TV’s “Monk”) and Secondo (Stanley Tucci) represent two aspects of the American dream.  Secondo is a proponent of the “melting pot” model; he is willing to Americanize the restaurant menu in order to attract more customers.  On the other hand, Primo the chef insists on retaining the purity of old-style Italian cuisine and will not compromise.  At issue is the survival of the brothers’ restaurant.

Across the street from Primo and Secondo is Pascal’s thriving Italian-American bistro.  Pascal (Ian Holm) has long wanted to secure chef Primo for his own kitchen.  Nevertheless, he throws a bone to the brothers in order to ensure their success.  He promises that he will pull some strings and get legendary singer Louis Prima to show up at the brothers’ restaurant if they pull a gourmet dinner together for Louis and his patrons.  What occurs next is a parade of succulent sequences where wonderful, mouthwatering dishes are produced.  A new dish I learned about while watching Big Night:  Timpano (pictured above), a festive bucket of baked pasta, meat, eggs, cheeses, sauces and God knows what else, sliced and served like a huge layer cake.

The primary delight in this show is the interplay between Tucci and Shaloub.  These two fine actors say more with silent gestures and looks than others communicate with pages of dialog.  They are complemented by supporting performances from Ian Holm, Isabella Rosselini, Minnie Driver, Marc Anthony, and Allison Janney.  Adding to it all are great period costuming and shots of restaurant interiors typical of the 1950’s.

This film can be accessed on at the following link:



Pluses:  Great performances by all involved; wonderful shots of restaurant interiors; fun period costuming; love the Louis Prima/Rosemary Clooney soundtrack; poignant final scene…and that timpano!

Minus:  Plot sometimes moves a bit leisurely

Cast:  Stanley Tucci, Tony Shaloub, Ian Holm, Isabella Rosselini, Minnie Driver, Allison Janney, Marc Anthony

Director:  Campbell Scott/Stanley Tucci

Rating:  R for language and some sexuality

In Color

Length:  107 minutes



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