In addition to being both a riveting crime drama and a biting dark comedy, the genius of The Sopranos is the world it created and invited the audience into.
Of course, food is a huge part of Italian culture, and so it plays a large role in the world that the characters inhabit. Because the show aired on Sunday nights, fans would often make a tradition of cooking a big Sunday dinner before watching the latest episode. Of course, The Sopranos also contains some shockingly graphic violence, so one always had to proceed with caution when watching the show, because other scenes made keeping the food down a bit of a challenge.
Hungry: Lobster At The Bada Bing
Lobster isn’t for everyone, but seafood fanatics are sure to get a major craving watching the guys dig into some massive lobsters at the Bada Bing while they weighed their options over what to do about the power struggle between Tony and Uncle Junior in season one’s “Meadowlands.”
They were specifically concerned about Mikey Palmice, Junior’s malicious and menacing right-hand man, who they feel might have to “sleep with the fishes” before too long.
Queasy: Mustang Sally Attacks Vito’s Brother
Mustang Sally appears in only one episode of the series, but he makes his presence felt in the worst way. After an altercation with his girlfriend, she approaches a stranger and asks him for a ride. Mustang Sally, in a fit of jealous rage, viciously beats him almost to death with a golf club in a disturbingly bloody and brutal scene.
Little did he know, that stranger was Vito Spatafore’s brother, which of course spelled major trouble for Mustang Sally, who gets his comeuppance later in the episode.
Hungry: Sunday Dinners
The Sunday dinner scenes were important to the series in that they kept the audience up to date on Tony’s home life, which often included hearing about AJ’s school problems and tension between his old school ways and his teenage daughter’s rebellious tendencies.
Especially funny were the early season dinner scenes with Livia and Uncle Junior, as they brought three generations of the Soprano family together around the same delicious spread of antipasto, pasta, salad, bread, and main course.
Queasy: Mustang Sally Gets Whacked
Two of the bloodiest scenes in Sopranos history take place in the same episode and involve the same character. After Mustang Sally beats Vito’s brother with the golf club, his days are obviously numbered. Tony makes the ill-advised decision to send Bobby Bacallieri, Sr., a sick old man, to do the deed.
He botches the hit, and though he accomplishes the ultimate goal of killing Mustang Sally, he makes a mess of the job. The scene involves a certain goriness, blood and up-close hand-to-hand combat.
Hungry: Tony And Sal At The Steakhouse
This scene from season two’s “From Where To Eternity” is The Sopranos at its most subversive. Tony and Sal “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero joke around over cold beers and thick, rare steaks, just minutes after murdering Matt Bevilaqua, who attempted a hit on Christopher in the previous episode.
The fact that they could enjoy this meal, particularly one this bloody and carnivorous, shortly after doing such a thing, is a testament to their sociopathy. The audience is made complicit by the fact that we can’t help but wish we had a seat at the table, and a steak and a brew of our own to enjoy alongside them.
Queasy: Fat Dom Goes Too Far
Ironically, this scene starts out a potential dinner scene, as Carlo and Silvio are making themselves a Fra Diavolo sauce to enjoy in their social club. Fat Dom Gamiello from New York stops by to drop off an envelope and starts mocking the death of Vito Spatafore, who he himself helped murder. He goes too far in his taunts, provoking Silvio and Carlo to kill him right then and there.
Silvio stuns Dom by hitting him in the head while Carlo stabbed him repeatedly. This is an example of The Sopranos’ use of spontaneous, quick, and bloody violence to jolt the audience out of their comfort zone.
Hungry: Feech Returns Home
Robert Loggia plays Feech La Manna, a well-respected veteran of the DiMeo crime family who is released from prison at the beginning of season five. Tony pays him a visit at Junior’s house to welcome him home and ends up staying for a late lunch/early dinner. The audience never gets a good look at the food, but it seems to be chicken cacciatore, or something similar, that Feech cooked himself.
Despite the casual setting, the breadbasket and red wine poured in tall glasses shows an old school meal, served old school style, by an old school guy. This kind of attention to detail is what made the world of The Sopranos so intriguing. How could one not want to try Feech’s cooking?
Queasy: Paulie’s Big Score
In season six’s “Mayham,” Paulie gets a tip from Vito about a large loot of cash belonging to Colombian drug dealers in an apartment in Newark. Paulie brings his associate, a minor character names Cary DiBartolo, to go and burglarize the apartment, but when they get there, the apartment is not vacant.
A vicious and bloody fight quickly breaks out. Paulie survives by stabbing one of the drug dealers with a large-sized pocketknife, and that’s not even the half of it. After the bloody battle is over, Paulie and Cary find a huge amount of cash hidden in the dishwasher. When Vito asks for half of the loot, Paulie retorts that he did all of the heavy lifting and that the scene in the apartment was “Mayham!”
Hungry: The Feast
Of course, sit-down dinners aren’t the only scenes that whet the appetite. Season six’s “The Ride” centers around the annual Feast of Elzear of Sabran, where Tony and his crew manage a street fair. Paulie and Sil meet Phil at the festival, and Tony pulls him aside for a one-on-one talk.
He has to repeat himself when he asks to talk to him, because his mouth is full of the sandwich he’s chowing down on, so much so that his words are hard to understand. Phil’s got a bag of freshly fried zeppole to keep his hands and mouth full, as well.
Queasy: Tony’s Revenge
In “The Second Coming,” New York gangster Coco Cogliano makes a mistake he’ll forever regret when he drunkenly harasses Tony’s daughter, Meadow, while she’s on a date at a Little Italy bakery. When Tony finds out about it, he goes onto New York’s turf and beats Coco nearly to death in a Little Italy restaurant, while Butchie, Phil’s consiglieri, looks on.
This is one of the most brutal scenes in the series, but ironically, it’s one of the only times where the audience is unequivocally able to root for Tony, admiring that he’s a caring enough father to avenge his daughter’s honor.