I wonder if Tony Soprano would like Pasta Beach?
He’d love the food — no question there. He’d rave about the Spaghetti alle Vongole and the Lasagne Bolognese. But sitting inside, he might feel a little exposed, which is never ideal for a mob boss.
Anyone on Bellevue could espy him through the picture windows. The bright lighting would leave little room for Tony to stay in the shadows, and it would be hard for him to find a spot where he could watch the door.
You could argue the Prosciutto di Parma Pizze would be worth the risk, but Tony always seemed to err on the side of caution. The again, in the final scene of the The Sopranos, it was Tony’s soft spot for good food (onion rings) that may have led to his ultimate demise.
Maybe Pasta Beach is exactly where you’d see Tony Soprano and his family if they were visiting Newport.
Newport Food Scene:On the heels of the Tony Awards, celebrating our own Broadway
“The Sopranos” is having a revival these days. Thanks to new streaming options, a pandemic that has made binge-watching a national pastime and a brand new Sopranos prequel (“The Many Saints of Newark”), the critically-acclaimed show from the early 2000s has found a new audience.
In a world where we need our escapes, taking an onscreen trip to Newark and immersing ourselves in the life of a murderous anti-hero as he wades through the issues of family, anxiety and the local underworld is as good as it gets.
All this Sopranos talk may make you ready to dive back into the series. If you’re thinking about it, let me offer up this warning: It will make you hungry. Not hungry for revenge. Not hungry for power. But hungry for really good Italian food. Like any family, crime or biological, good food is what brings us together. And no series has ever celebrated that more than The Sopranos.
Every single meal they eat on the show looks delicious. And they’re always eating. Sandwiches from Satriale’s Pork Store. Carmela’s homemade lasagna. Artie’s Osso Buco a la Bucco. Every scene has you drooling. Sure there’s violence at every turn, but there’s also sausages and “gabagool.” It’s part of the allure of the show.
The scenes are so intense, you almost have to turn to the food as some kind of release. Binge a few episodes and you’ll walk away rapt and anxious and ready to dunk a piece of crusty bread into a good Sunday gravy.
Thankfully, we live in a place where you can meet all your Soprano-induced Italian food cravings. You don’t have to go to Federal Hill (where Tony may or may not have had a few associates); we’ve got what you need right here.
Tony might be uneasy at Pasta Beach, but the rest of us can enjoy every minute and every morsel. You can slurp up their Bucatini Cacio e Pepe as if you’re Bobby Baccalieri.
Or you can head over to Sardella’s and dive into their Eggplant Parmesan covered in mozzarella and their signature marinara sauce with linguini on the side. Sardella’s is the kind of spot that Tony Soprano would love — excellent food, long history in town, brick walls and cozy fireplace.
He could have a sit-down with Johnny Sack and then bring home some Imbriglio’s pizza (Sardella’s pizza kitchen) to eat later while watching movies with AJ.
Lucia’s Italian Restaurant is always a great spot, too. Their Gnocchi Rosa is everything you could want on a chilly, autumn night and their cozy location on Thames Street makes for great dining.
Down on Lower Thames, you have Mamma Luisa’s — another cozy spot with amazing food. Fill up on clams and mussels with their Zuppa di Frutti di Mare, or go for the seared tuna in the Tonno alla Puttanesca. You could see Tony and Carm having a date night at one of these spots.
Tony and the gang seem to be traditionalists, but they’d enjoy some of the modern Italian fare in town as well. You could see Paulie Walnuts sitting outside at Bar ‘Cino, sipping a nice glass of Chianti while enjoying his Rigatoni Bolognese and his friend Silvio happily diving into the Carnaroli Risotto.
The innovative team at Giusto at Hammets Wharf are making great impressions, too. Tony would love the seaside location. He would schedule important meetings there with important out-of-town associates — anyone he would want to impress. And if they ordered the Bucatini ai Frutti di Mare or the Mafaldine, they would be impressed.
While we don’t have a Pork Store in town, we do have Bottega Boccino, which has fresh cut salumi and formaggi (Italian meats and cheeses). You could see Tony sending Christopher here to grab him a Bologna Piadine (imported mortadella, mozzarella, tomatoes, arugula, oil & vinegar).
And if you’re looking for good sausage, pull into the Aquidneck Meat Market in Middletown for that and all your charcuterie needs. Tony would like this place. He’d stock up before every family cookout where he knew he would be in command of the grill.
Watching The Sopranos again is like getting a visit from an old friend (like when Tony Blundetto got out of jail). It’s the escapism we have all been craving in this crazy pandemic world. As viewers, we can appreciate the original series for its impact on pop culture and for the great story telling and incredible acting.
It still holds up some 20 years later. In these strange times, the show feeds a hunger while also leaving us starving. Thank god we have great spots around here to satisfy our yens.
Dan Lederer is a Middletown resident with 30 years experience in the food service industry throughout New England. He continues to work locally behind the scenes within the industry and remains a devoted fan of all things restaurant and hospitality related. His column appears on newportri.com and Thursdays in The Daily News. Cheers!
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