RIP, James Gandolfini: Best Italian Restaurants to Mourn a Giant of Stage and Screen
The truth is James Gandolfini, who died Wednesday at age 51 of a heart attack, had a career that extended well beyond the hit HBO show The Sopranos. There was the time he played Winston, a gay hit man, in The Mexican. It made 90 minutes with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts almost bearable.
Much love from Miami, Mr. Gandolfini.
His portrayal of Eddie Poole, a scumbag porno talent scout who led a young "actress" to her death in Joel Schumacher's unforgettably creepy 8MM still gives me nightmares.
But it was Gandolfini's long-running role as Tony Soprano that gave him a permanent place in our lives as a conflicted yet imposing New Jersey mob boss. He will be terribly missed by millions.
I grew up in New Jersey, and The Sopranos was a big deal. Every Sunday night, friends and family would, after much arguing, gather at a central location. A Jewish mother would muster up her best gravy for veal parmigiana (or just order out). Any out-of-turn talking during the show was met with a swift "You wanna get f*ckin' whacked?" by someone's father putting on his best tough-guy Brooklyn-Italian accent.
Let's not be coy. Gandolfini's cholesterol level at the time of death was likely higher than most Americans' credit scores, but his size made him a terrifying presence on the big and small screens. Food was always a big part of The Sopranos, and it seems only appropriate to celebrate his life by sharing a big meal with friends and family, as many of us did when The Sopranos was in its heyday, or perhaps before or after seeing one of his movies. Here's a few places that fit the bill.
5. Caffe Abbracci
The Coral Gables institution is one of the few places in Miami with decent service and that old-school Italian-American feel. The dark wood interior, the gussied-up waiters with thick Italian accents, and homemade pastas make it a perfect for when you want to pretend your last name ends with a vowel. Word is it's also one of the few places left around town that isn't bugged.
4. Gusto Fino Italian Deli Market
Sangwiches are just as important to Italians as they are to every pork-and-pickle-loving Cuban. Hardly an episode of The Sopranos went by without Tony or Big Pussy or someone shoving a meatball hero or an Italian cold-cut sub down their pie holes. Antonio Vecchio, who hails from Campania, Italy, opened the Coral Gables shop in 2005 and has been building a loyal following. Can anyone say Sicilian meatball sandwiches?