What Wise Guys Eat

Written by Skip Lombardi

When I lived inrepparttar North End of Boston, inrepparttar 113124 nineteen eighties and nineties, I hung around a neighborhood bar from time to time, called The Corner Café. It was located on Prince Street nearrepparttar 113125 corner of Salem Street. And it was indeed a neighborhood place. The owner, Richie Longo, was a neighborhood kid who grew up on Prince Street and duly attended Saint Leonard’s School—as his first generation Italian-American parents had—along with allrepparttar 113126 other neighborhood kids.

The regular patrons atrepparttar 113127 time, were neighborhood people too; all of whom seemed to have nicknames. (although,repparttar 113128 nicknames were useful for identification purposes). There was Joerepparttar 113129 Lawyer, who wasn’t a lawyer at all, but worked as an insurance investigator. Then there was Johnrepparttar 113130 Lawyer, who was a stockbroker, and Johnrepparttar 113131 Lawyer, who really was a lawyer with an office acrossrepparttar 113132 street. And I was always confused about Maryrepparttar 113133 Nurse, whose nickname seemed unnecessary; she was indeed a nurse, but she wasrepparttar 113134 only regular named Mary.

Then there wererepparttar 113135 rest ofrepparttar 113136 regulars: mostly young men ,who fancied themselves to be wise guys. Their conversations were peppered with phrases like ‘fuggeddaboudit,’ and ‘ba-da-bing!’ And they often talked about ‘needing to see this guy,’ or ‘having to take care of that thing.’ But despiterepparttar 113137 fact that they revered Robert DiNiro, and may have harbored dreams of being known by a nickname like “extreme unction,”repparttar 113138 most serious crime any of them may ever have committed was betting onrepparttar 113139 Red Sox late in September.

When these local heros weren’t talking about ‘this guy,’ or ‘that thing,’ though,repparttar 113140 conversation tended to stray toward food; often, toward Chicken Scarpariello. This was a hot dish—literally, and figuratively—during my years in Boston. Andrepparttar 113141 folks often debatedrepparttar 113142 qualities of one preparation over another. The talk often centered aroundrepparttar 113143 merits of Cantina d’Italia’s recipe, that included sausage, over Felicia’s, that didn’t. Sausage or not, though, Chicken Scarpariello isrepparttar 113144 kind of dish that would please any wise guy because it encourages eating with a fork in one hand an a torn-off piece of crusty bread inrepparttar 113145 other;repparttar 113146 latter, used for sopping uprepparttar 113147 sauce, and for punctuating various exclamations of ‘fuggeddaboudit,’ or ‘ba-da-bing.’

The short version ofrepparttar 113148 history of Chicken Scarpariello, ‘shoemaker’s-style’, is that it was named forrepparttar 113149 humble fellow who cobbled togetherrepparttar 113150 ingredients forrepparttar 113151 dish from his meager pantry. How it became a wise guy favorite is more obscure, and very likely lost to history. But I suggest that when you serve Chicken Scarpariello at home,repparttar 113152 dinner table conversation will become animated and rise a decibel or two above normal. And will you and your fellow diners enjoy it? Fuggeddaboudit.


Written by Skip Lombardi

I owe my history teachers an apology. You tried your best to ignite even a glimmer of emotion in me for your subject, but I stymied you at every turn. Well into adulthood now, I'm reduced to making muttered comments that history is not my strong suit, when in fact, I made certain it was preordained.

Now, at this advanced age in my life, I'm looking into some ancient Italian recipes, and my research is taking me to some fascinating places I probably should have known about all along. For example, I've known-seemingly forever-that it was Caterina de' Medici who taughtrepparttar French to eat with a fork. But I recently stumbled onto some information about her other culinary contributions that I've found to be enlightening.

For readers who may also have been inrepparttar 113123 back ofrepparttar 113124 classroom reading "Mad" magazine duringrepparttar 113125 Renaissance, Caterina de' Medici was one of those Medicis. You know;repparttar 113126 ones from Florence. The same Medicis who had a second story built ontorepparttar 113127 Ponte Vecchio so they could crossrepparttar 113128 Arno river without mingling withrepparttar 113129 hoi-paloi, even if they had to climb a set of stairs at each end.

Sometime around 1533, Caterina's uncle, Pope Clement VII, arranged for her to marry one of King Francis' kids, Henri, a.k.a. Henri of Orleans; later, Henri II, King of France. She was fourteen atrepparttar 113130 time.

It must have been tough going for a young lady who was, by-and-large ignored byrepparttar 113131 Royal Court. But it left Ms. de' Medici with some time on her hands, and she seemed to use it productively. (Of course there was that tawdry business aboutrepparttar 113132 St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, but that was later in life). When she wasn't engaged in eating, say, a "ragoût of cockscombs, kidneys, and artichoke hearts," she apparently spent a lot of time thinking about food. It goes without saying, that this qualifies her as my kind of Regent.

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