Don’t Forget to Stir the Sauce

italianamerican-300x208As a sort of run-up to tomorrow night’s Oscars, AMC is broadcasting Goodfellas. Well, really, the Oscars probably have little to do with it, despite the billing. First of all, Goodfellas got robbed at the stupid Oscars in favor of the vomitorium that was Dances With Wolves (except for a Joe Pesci Supporting Actor win, which barely cancels out Ray Liotta getting no nomination at all). Secondly, Goodfellas is constantly on AMC. And I know that because I watch it practically every… single… time. Yes, I have the fancy commemorative edition on Blu-ray, but can you really expect me to just flip past a fuckin’ shinebox as awesome as this one? Come on.

Despite my having seen Goodfellas a thoroughly obscene amount of times at this point, I had never even heard of Italianamerican, a 1974 mini-doc Scorsese made about his parents and their life in Little Italy. And how incredibly awesome is a discovery like this? Despite thinking I know the Scorsese oeuvre backward and forward, I stumble across something made 36-plus years ago on YouTube and it’s entirely new to me. Fastidious collector sharing powers, activate!

You know Mrs. Scorsese from Goodfellas — the characters visit her and are fed a spontaneous midnight meal while Billy Batts is in the trunk — but she’s in full flower here as Martin interviews them in their Elizabeth Street apartment. Funniest has to be the slow demotion of Mr. Scorsese, who starts out with the bluster of the man of the house (“Of course men cook better than women. They just don’t do it because it’s women’s work…”) and is slowly silenced by the full force of his wife’s personality.

Between kitchen interludes where she diligently makes her gravy and meatballs (watch through to the end of the credits for her recipe!), the stories flow: making wine in tenement apartments, ten cents for a knish and coffee at Yonah Shimmel (!), month-long boat rides from Sicily, clashes between the Irish and the Italians, kids stealing from fruit carts… So much great stuff. Even if they didn’t parent Martin Scorsese, what an incredible old New York couple. Love love love them.

Italianamerican (1974)  Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5

Bonus! Watch Mrs. Scorsese accompany her son on a 1991 visit to Letterman where she makes her famous pizza (DeNiro claims it to be the “best in the world,” she says) for Dave and a visiting Bill Murray. Trifecta!