The following is an article I wrote, published in The Montclair Times, January 11, 2006, after I interviewed Sopranos actor, Joseph R. Gannascoli, who had created an all natural Italian pasta sauce.
Quite a few people got a kick out of the fact that Gannascoli admitted to me — a reporter — that he was a food fence!
I asked him, “Is this ON THE RECORD?”
He said, “Yes.”
So, here is the full article, one of my favorites that I ever wrote — ENJOY!
The Sauce of All Sauces: ‘Sopranos’ Actor Joseph Gannascoli Creates Sauces ”To Die For’
By Mary Anne Christiano of The Montclair Times
Most chefs say their sauce is to die for, but when the chef is a gangster, he might mean it a little more literally.
Or maybe not. After all, this chef only plays a gangster on TV.
Joseph Gannascoli, who plays Vito Spatafore on “The Sopranos,” the noted series on HBO cable television, has crafted natural, additive-free sauces to be introduced in his new book “A Meal to Die For.” Both the book and the sauces made their debut on Tuesday, Jan. 10.
There are three sauces to choose from: “Roasted Garlic and Eggplant,” “Wild Mushroom” and “Sunday Sauce.” According to Gannascoli, his sauces feature ingredients, such as wild mushrooms, not often used in other sauces on the market today. The garlic in the “Roasted Garlic and Eggplant” sauce is roasted, not sautéed, which makes the taste sweeter, and there is sherry in the Sicilian “Sunday Sauce.”
Gannascoli, who recently lost 160 pounds, said he tries to eat healthy and that’s why he decided to concoct sauces without any preservatives. “I’d like to see my sauces in Trader Joe’s,” he said. “It’s a novelty.”
While the sauces start out with pretty basic ingredients, Gannascoli suggests doctoring them up. For instance, olives and capers can be added to the “Sunday Sauce” and put over fish. “If I wanted to cook mussels, I can add white wine to the ‘Sunday Sauce,'” he said. Gannascoli also suggests putting the “Wild Mushroom” sauce on pizza.
Before Gannascoli got into acting, he was a chef for 20 years. “People always loved my sauce,” he said. Leaving law school, Brooklyn-born Gannascoli decided to open up a restaurant in Manhattan.
The self-taught cook has been inventing dishes since his youth. He said, “When I was a kid I wanted to be this great chef. All cuisine is interesting, Japanese, New Orleans, Italian …”
During the 1980s and 1990s Gannascoli fulfilled his childhood dreams by opening up a few restaurants while dabbling in acting. But he said he always got bored and started gambling. After losing $60,000, Gannascoli paid off his debts and decided to pursue acting in Los Angeles. He made a few movies but couldn’t take being away from home.
“I went home, opened up a few more restaurants, didn’t gamble as much,” Gannascoli said.
Then Gannascoli got the break he was waiting for, being cast as the character Vito Spatafore in HBO’s Emmy Award-winning show, “The Sopranos.”
It’s possible that Gannascoli’s fictitious character in the show about organized crime in New Jersey lives in Montclair. “I think my home is in Montclair, or close to it,” he said. Gannascoli lives in Long Island and is not too familiar with the area.
After reading a story about a gay character involved in organized crime, Gannascoli decided he wanted his character Vito to be unique and suggested they make him come out on the show. When asked if Gannascoli’s character Vito is anything like him, he said, “No, I love women too much. I just got married!”
However, the character in Gannascoli’s book, “A Meal to Die For” is so similar to Gannascoli he says it’s almost autobiographical.
“It’s based on my life,” he said. “It’s a culinary novel of crime. I think it would make a great movie. It has food. It has the mob. It’s funny.”
The lead character, Benny Lacoco, is a “food fence” who wants to become a great chef. Lacoco moves hot items such as olive oil and expensive wine.
“I was a food fence for five or six years,” said Gannascoli. “But I never got ‘pinched’ [arrested] as they say.”
But even as a food fence, Gannascoli stayed true to his exquisite culinary tastes — if the quality wasn’t there, he said he wouldn’t sell it.
In the future, Gannascoli hopes to get into a bigger food line. He said, “Barbecue sauces, spreads, olive oils … I want to pitch my own cooking show. I want to expand and do as much as I can, while I can.”