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October 17, 1996 - Image 21

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-10-17

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

16B -- The Avigan Daily Weekend *gazine -- Thursday, Octobl7, 1996 4
-,WrN.Y chef behn
t a 'Big Night'i food


The Michigan Daily eekend Ma

Coftrectom Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott work behind the scenes of their ftlm, "Big Night."


The Hartford Courant
In the thoroughly delightful new
movie "Big Night," Stanley Tucci, co-
writer, co-director and a star in the film,
is concerned with the terminal, tortur-
ous conflict between art and commerce.
Happily for cineastes and foodies, the
battleground is the kitchen. More specifi-
cally, it is the kitchen of the Paradise
Restaurant, an intimate Italian restaurant
on the New Jersey shore that is owned
and operated by the Pilaggi brothers,
Primo and Secondo. While Secondo frets
over the business, which is failing finan-
cially, Primo practices his great art, cook-
ing gastronomic pleasures that would
bring tears to the eyes of Escoffier.
But if actor Tony Shalhoub does a
superb job in the often hilarious role of
the passionate Primo, it is New York chef
and food stylist Deborah DiSabatino who
deserves the culinary kudos.
A buyer for Bonwit Teller for 20 years,
DiSabatino began taking cooking classes
in the '70s and gradually developed a
career in the culinary arts. At age 49, she
is a private chef for a Broadway and film
actress and her
director husband
(who both prefer I had i
to remain anony-
mous), and she worked c
works as a free-
lance food stylist reaure
for TV programs Debt
and commer-
cials. Although
DiSabatino was
a veteran at
wiring shrimp tails in place for Red


feast devised by the Pilaggi brothers to
save their Paradise.
The banquet that follows is a match
for cinema's greatest food-film footage,
and it is a triumph for DiSabatino and
her crew.
The scene calls for more than 2Oplat-
ters of food, among them a tn-colored
mountain of risottos prepared with rich
homemade stocks, golden capons stuffed
with ruby pomegranates, crostini with
goat cheese, baked salmon, roast pig and
the mighty timpano, a drum-shaped cal-
zone-like creation combining layers of
pasta, vegetables, hard-boiled eggs and
sausage inside a golden crust.
Before being hired to work on the
film, DiSabatino had never made a tim-
pano, and she got a recipe and advice
from Tucci's mother, whose cooking for
her family was a large part of the inspi-
ration for "Big Night."
"She was great, so easy to work with
and so proud of her son," DiSabatino
Despite - or because of - appear-
ances, the majority of the prop food
tasted horrible,
DiSabatino says.
fever "I didn't make
the risotto classi-
i a cally. I knew that
if I made it clas-
sically, I would
. tbe looking at a
ah DiSabatino, plate of glue
N.Y. chef because that's
what happens to
it. I cooked the
arborio rice like you would pasta, but I
undercooked it, and then made a base
with half-and-half. You don't use sea-
sonings in styling because you don't
need to. The actors had to eat it, and I'll
say they're very good actors."
As any cook knows, the job of chef
can be grueling, and it was no different
for the "Big Night" team.
"We would come in at the crack of
dawn, at 7 a.m. every morning. I just
worked straight through because I had
to. I was not looking at a time clock or
hours. Food does not wait for you. In
the evening, at the wrap, we would have
to put the food away and store it prop-
erly. At night, I would make my list and
start ordering and get a prep list. Thank
God for the fax machine, because at
midnight or 1 a.m., I would fax out all
my orders. Suppliers thought I was
opening a restaurant."
DiSabatino says her role as a.stylist
and manipulating food to make it look
great goes hand in hand with cooking
food for the pleasure of serving or eat-
ing it. "They are contradictory but com-
plementary. In terms of styling, you can
use some of those techniques in cook-
ing. There is a difference in how things
look when they're chopped (a certain
way) or garnished. I'm not anal about
it, but I tend to be concerned with how
the food looks and how it looks on the
As DiSabatino and her "Big Night"
colleagues are aware, audiences eat
with their eyes first.

Continued from Page 24B
"The hayride is obviously less
intense by design and something the
whole family can enjoy" Zupi
The hayride takes about a half an
hour and ends with complimentary
cider and doughnuts around a com-
munal bonfire. Wiard's also offers
the Boo Barn strictly for the little
Not sure which event to choose?
Wiard's has a package deal called the
Night Terrors Trio that includes all
three events. "A lot of people take
advantage of it," boasts Zupi. "You get
about $26 worth of events for $15 It
takes approximately 15 minutes to go
through (the Haunted Barn and
Asylum respectively). ... By the time
you stand in line for everything, we
can entertain you for most of the
Ah, waiting lines, those little side
effects of being popular. For those who
don't like to wait, Thursday and
Sunday are the best times to be fright-
ened. Peak hours at Wiard's are from 9
to I1 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The
wait for terror isn't that bad once you
are actually in line. Of course, as it gets
closer to Halloween, the crowds will
Zupi estimated that Wiard's will have
close to 50,000 people come through

their Night Terrors attractions before
Halloween is gone.
People as far away as Canada have
come to Wiard's to get scared.
"We draw people from all over the
place;'Zupi related. "We've had groups
come from Sarnia, Ontario, and have
come from Saginaw to come down
Strange, eerie noises and blood-cur-
dling screams issue forth from the
buildings where the terrorizing actual-
ly takes place. Prospective victims,
laughing nervously with friends or
silently twisting their hands with anxi-
ety, wait in line to be scared silly in the
Are they really frightened as they
make their way through the maze of
Coming out of the Asylum, relieved-
looking Rackham student Jenny Stone
commented, "It was pretty scary, espe-
cially when the guy with the long face
came at me"
Her friend, Rackham student Steven
Toub, had a different feeling. "I wasn't
scared. I liked it. I thought it was funny.
I liked the guy with the automatic
weapon shooting at you."
So, if you are looking for something
to jump start your Halloween spirit, you
might check out Wiard's Orchard in
Ypsilanti. They are easy to find and
have plenty of parking. Bring your
friends and above all, have a frightfully
good time.

Continued from Page 24B
another (studio) record in the spring
or in the summer, and maybe have it
out next fall" Berlin reported.

So the past has been successf
present is busy and the future
bright for Los Lobos. "It's h
whine," Berlin observed. Fortu
the audience should have noth
whine about themselves after

Lobster spots (keeping them sitting up
straight for the camera), arranging food
for full-length movies was uncharted ter-
"I had never worked on a feature, and
it's terrifying;"she said by telephone from
New York City. "I read the script (written
by Tucci and his cousin Joe Troppiano),
and I said, 'Oh, my lordy,' and I sort of
panicked, but then you just break it all
Like other great food flicks, including
"Babette's Feast," "Eat Drink Man
Woman" and "Like Water for Chocolate"
"Big Night" is as much about extraordi-
nary cooking - and the magical power
of the rituals and mealtimes that attend it
- as it is about business and art.
Breaking the script down meant
carving it up scene by scene and writ-
ing a prep list to include everything
from the pomegranates used to stuff the
capons to the platters they would be
served on in the dining room.
It also meant creating meals and plates
and platters designed to underscore the
film's reverence for food, which, as
voiced by one character, is simply: "To
cat good food is to be close to God"
The film's essential conflict pits the
Paradise against Pascal's, a neighboring
spaghetti-and-meatballs factory.
"Do you know what goes on inside that
restaurant every night?" Primo demands
in outrage. "The rape of cuisine!"
The film's simmering conflict comes
to a boil during the "big night," a large

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