“Life is a combination of magic and pasta.”
Abolish pasta? Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the founder of Italy’s Futurist movement, tried to deprive Italians of their national dish: ‘May be that a diet of cod, roast beef and steamed pudding is beneficial to the English [..] but pasta is not beneficial to the Italians’ he wrote in his Manifesto della Cucina Futurista (1931). I am sorry Mr Marinetti, you clearly failed! In the last century, pasta dishes spread all over the world, becoming not just a plate but a cultural symbol. Like every myth, maccaroni has often played an important role in movies. Here are five pasta scenes to remember.
Poverty and Nobility (Miseria e nobiltà) - (1954) by Mario Mattioli
If you are Italian, chances are you’ll remember one of the most iconic scenes by Totò (the Neapolitan mangiamaccheroni mask) stuffing his pockets with spaghetti. In this classic movie – Totò plays a character called Pasquale, who lives with Felice and their families in the same flat, leading a hard life. When asked to play the fake aristocratic relatives of a gentlemen, when presented with an elegant lunch, the starving family forgets decent table manners and hurl themselves onto a huge bowl of spaghetti, eating it with their hands and shoving it into their pockets.
Lady and The Tramp (1955) by Walt Disney
One of the sweetest scenes of spaghetti we have ever seen. The Tramp (a street mutt) takes his love (an elegant Cocker Spaniel) to the best Italian restaurant in town, Tony’s, where finally their love blossoms, with the help of seductive strains from Bella Notte.
Their first kiss remains unforgettable. Sharing a bowl of pasta with meat sauce, they involuntarily suck up the same strand of spaghetti - and that is it. We were all moved, however, it must be said that Meatballs and Spaghetti do not exist in Italy!
Person Unknown (I Soliti Ignoti) (1958) by Mario Monicelli
For cinephiles, one of the best commedia all’italiana by a great director, the same as La Grande Guerra, – The Great War. It is a crime comedy thriller with dramatic undertones, introducing a bungling group of amateurs – including a former boxer (Vittorio Gassman) and an unemployed photographer (Marcello Mastroianni) – as thieves in a break-in attempt. The Italian job is hopeless from the beginning. Love, family and food, not work, are the gang’s main concerns! The hit fails, and they end up having a meal, instead: a pasta soup with chickpeas. Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film by the Academy.
A story of love, loss and deception by the Turkish-Italian director Ferzan Ozpetek. A quiet middle class woman, Antonia, discovers that her beloved, suddenly deceased husband Massimo, had been having an affair with a working class man, Michele. From that point onwards, she enters a new world. On a Roman terrace the circle of Michele and Massimo’s friends – made up of a mix of straight, gays and transvestites - meet every Sunday for lunch. Antonia is invited to share a huge bowl of farfalle al sugo with them. Pasta becomes a way to strengthen the bonds.
Goodfellas (1990) by Martin Scorsese
Pasta reigns in both The Godfather and Goodfellas – a couple of the most significant Italian-American mafia movies. In Goodfellas, two of the most memorable scenes revolve around gangsters and their love of pasta: the late-night (and post-murder) saucy meal made by naive Tommy’s mum and the prison feast, where Vinnie is in charge of making the ragù sauce for all his fellows. Tommy’s mum is played by Martin Scorsese’s mother, Catherine – a real queen of the kitchen. She famously cooked for the cast and crew of her son’s movie. “Italianamerican” is her cookbook, with photos and anecdotes that tell the story of three generations of Scorseses.