Does the pasta look weird on The Sopranos?

Or is it just me?

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Does the pasta look weird on The Sopranos? Is it just me? Am I the only one who thinks the pasta looks weird on The Sopranos? Like, it looks good, but also it… doesn’t?

It’s always the same couple of dishes in rotation: pasta in red sauce, meatballs, salad, bread in a bread basket. The salad usually looks tremendously naked, undressed, not just uncooked, like most salads, but the opposite of cooked, anti-cooked, its vegetables’ rawness impossibly increased. Is this possible? Could this be the camera’s fault?

Isn’t this show all about food? Tony is triggered by meats. The ducks are out to steal his sausage. Gabagool punches his brain in the fucking face. They remind him of seeing his joyless mother get turned on by meat from a butchered butcher. Food, sex, death. Fat marbling its way around Tony’s poor cholesterol heart.

But the pasta, the pasta! What is up with the pasta? The tomato sauce isn’t the right color, I’m thinking now. It’s too red, so red it’s almost pink. It looks cooked, sure, but it doesn’t look like it’s spent any time over heat or in the oven. It looks like sadness. It looks like sand.

Why does it make me so hungry? Why am I salivating as I write this? Why did I order spaghetti with meatballs from the (I’m assuming) Greek diner that pumps away like a little kidney under the raised subway track on Broadway, only for my food to arrive like a warning, like Jimmy Altieri with the rat in his mouth, like a finger in the mail that says, without saying a word, “Come to the river at midnight if you ever want to see your appetite again”?

(For the record, Sally thought it tasted fine. I thought it tasted like angry celery.)

Is it possible that the pasta has been secretly replaced by imposter pasta from another dimension where pasta is good, but also, it really really isn’t? Did this happen over time, or all at once? Trays and trays of ziti and manigot, sitting in Carmela’s freezer, like clones awaiting activation. “Buongiorno,” says the pasta, “I’m Mike Pence.”

The pasta looks so heavy. It looks like if you picked the plate right off of Carmela’s dining table and turned it upside-down, it would all remain exactly in place, glued down like a display-only dish in a deli. Except there is no glue, only the gravity of some dark and unknown secret, pulling the pasta into the dish, the table, the floor, into the crust of the earth, into the deep nothing. Does it answer the call of the First Pasta, the great ancestral Primo?

I read somewhere that James Gandolfini would actually eat when he ate on The Sopranos, chew and swallow, to really sell the eating. Did he do this? Did it taste good? If it wasn’t good, wouldn’t that make it harder to sell his enjoyment of it?

When I was a kid, my mother would make baked ziti. I once complained that the tomato sauce made me “sluggish.” For this crime I was mocked for years.

When the Soprano crew visits Naples, they are invited to a large private dinner. One of the courses is served some kind of squid-ink bucatini with mussels. It actually looks yummy. I am shocked.

But Paulie is not having it. He lifts a twirl of the stuff in the air. He eyes it warily, letting the guilty noodles drip off his fork, like fat from a slow turning spit. He calls over a server. “Can I just get some macaroni and gravy?” he asks, nodding his gracious head, his voice slipping a twenty in the waiter’s ear. The waiter doesn’t understand. One of the hosts, a man in a bright red shirt, asks Paulie if he means uva, grapes, which he pronounces “graybees.” “Gravy, gravy,” Paulie insists. His V’s are rubbery and sound like B’s, so the guess wasn’t that unfair. Finally, defeated: “Tomato sauce.” The man in the gravy-colored shirt tells the waiter to bring Paulie some spaghetti. He chuckles in Italian to the man next to him. “And you thought the Germans were classless pieces of shit.”

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