Steve Schirripa Remembers the Decadent Eating Culture on “The Sopranos”
"A lot of times, you'll see people just move food around the plate. We actually ate. [And] I enjoyed every moment of it."
Best known for portraying Bobby “Bacala” Baccalieri on The Sopranos and Detective Anthony Abetemarco on Blue Bloods, Steve Schirripa recently surprised pedestrians in the heart of midtown Manhattan by standing guard at a billboard promoting high-end condiment company Sir Kensington’s.
A native Brooklynite, the 63-year-old was perfectly at home playing up the tough-guy image he has cultivated during his career on behalf of the brand, because he isn’t just an ambassador for Sir Kensington’s condiments — he’s also a customer.
“My kids introduced me to it. Sir Kensington’s has a different flavor than the old stuff I’ve always eaten before,” he says. “I like ketchup on my hamburgers. I like mustard on my hot dogs. Once in a blue moon, I’ll have ketchup on a hot dog. I will, I’ll admit it: I’m a ketchup and hot dog eater. Mayonnaise isn’t really an Italian thing, but it’s my favorite. Mayonnaise is my no. 1 condiment. I put it on tuna. I put it on turkey sandwiches. If you’ve never tried a fried egg sandwich with mayonnaise, you should. I also like a salami sandwich with Swiss, tomato and mustard. But never a salami with mayo. That’s a no-no. Even Sir Kensington’s, as much as I love them — no mayo on salami.”
It wasn’t served with mayo, but there was plenty of salami on the set of The Sopranos for Schirripa and his co-stars, both on and off camera.
“All the food that we ate came from real Italian restaurants. Some of it came from Manducatis in Queens and some of it was from Bamonte’s, which is a great restaurant in Brooklyn,” he says. “The catering truck was good too. Every single day, I’m talking salami, soppressata, provolone, other cheeses, Italian cookies and breadsticks. The food was almost all Italian. Sometimes Tony ate Chinese, but nobody was going out for ethnic or Indian food. You didn’t see much of that. Food was a very big part of the show and it was always the real deal. We were surrounded with great food all the time.”
And not much, if any, went to waste, according to Schirripa.
“I remember eating chicken cacciatore starting at 7:00 in the morning in a scene with Jim [James Gandolfini], Robert Loggia and Dominic Chianese,” he says. “At 7:00 you say, ‘Wow, I’m going to just eat this chicken cacciatore and white rice.’ After about five or six hours of that when you want to puke, you don’t feel that way. But at the beginning, you feel like you’ve got the green light to eat. When we had to eat, we really dug in. Jim ate. I ate. A lot of times you’ll see people just move food around the plate. We actually ate. I enjoyed every moment of it. I still eat to this day. I don’t push the food around. I’m going for it. I want it to look real. What you see is what you see.”
Now on Blue Bloods, Schirripa often finds himself eating sandwiches, sometimes from an establishment like Defonte’s in Red Hook, where his image hangs prominently on the wall.
“My picture is in most pizzerias and sandwich shops in New York City,” he says. “My go-to pizza is L&B Spumoni Gardens in Brooklyn. It’s the best. I’ve been eating it since I was five years old. For sandwiches, I like Defonte’s a lot. I also like Pisillo’s on Nassau Street downtown. It’s an incredible sandwich and I’m not joking. Also Lioni’s in Brooklyn on 15th Avenue is incredible. For chicken parm, I’m going to Nico’s on Mulberry Street or Vinny’s of Carroll Gardens on Smith Street. You cannot go wrong. It’s very, very simple. The food is great. If I’m getting a hot sandwich, I’m getting an eggplant parm. Or I’m getting a nice meatball sandwich, but only certain places have good meatballs. If I’m going for a cold sandwich, I like salami.”
Just no mayo — even if it is Sir Kensington’s.
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