In the beginning, long before Tony Soprano, I had what I thought was a great idea. It was seemingly simple - write a tongue-in-cheek book about food and the Mafia (specifically last suppers of noted mafiosi) entitled "Dining with the Don." Not having the confidence that I could ever take this on alone, I serendipitously ran into an old acquaintance, Tracy. I shared with him my idea and my quandary. He said he hadn't written a book before, however, he confidently said he could rewrite one. Hurdle one - jumped.
The project has evolved, revolved, dissolved, been dead and buried and revived more times than Kim K. has exposed her ass and LiLo has been in and outta rehab. What started out as a book about mobsters with recipes back in 1988 has now morphed into this blog. Right outta the gate, I was extremely lucky, but couldn't believe such good fortune could come my way with no effort. It went to a big (I mean BIG) West Coast literary agent (think Spago's Oscar party) through a close friend whose best friend's husband, yada, yada, yada. After an eternity of wait time sitting by the phone and patrolling my mailbox daily, Tracy and I got the word: Although Mr. BIG agent liked it, still no deal as he was already repping former wise guy author, Henry Hill (yeah, yeah Goodfellas) which presented a conflict of interest for him. Hill had written some kinda Mafia cook book about eating or cooking while in the witness protection program. It was a pass.
In the 2nd or 3rd month, another miracle. Tracy's old agent was talking to the head literary agent of a MAJOR NY agency. Mr. MNYA happened to ask whatever became of former client Tracy. He wanted to know what T was up to since he hadn't seen him in about four decades. Old agent, "He's writing a book with some woman." MNYA: "Why hasn't it crossed my desk? Tell him to send me the treatment." After reading it, Mr. MNYA expressed interest in shopping it to a couple of top NY publishers, however, was not quite sure what genre it fell into as it wasn't your conventional cookbook. He asked for three chapters to get a better idea of where he could take it. Frozen between terror and elation I did the only thing I could do - start popping Immodium AD for the runs I got at the good news -correction the thought of actually doing "IT." In true Maynard G. Krebbs inflection on the word work, what came out was, "W-r-i-t-e?" Dorothy Parker once shared her pearls of wisdom as to the key to writing, something like: apply your ass to the seat of the chair. Day after day I promised myself, "Today I'm gonna plop my ass down." Then 9/11 happened and I had an out. Who would have an appetite for a book about death in the aftermath of this tragedy? The book never materialized and life went on for everyone. Tracy resurrected a musical he had begun writing many years before. Mr. MNYA retired after 40+ years as the head honcho of the MNYA and then up and died a few years ago. Months later I had a knee replacement and after a long recupe, rehab and post op depression, I was totally detached from my creation and buried it. R.I.P. DWTD.
After 25 years of floundering with my writing and DWTD, last summer I decided to exhume the treatment and go solo. I registered it with the Writers Guild. 'cried tears of joy plunking down my $22 and held onto my certificate as if it were an Ivy League diploma. This time I would do it as a reality TV show. Out of the blue, an old friend reconnected with me on FB. I told her about the book/reality TV show. She was somewhat enthusiastic and promised to shop it to some "industry" contacts she had. For several reasons, it never flew and we parted ways. I realized it was never gonna happen unless I made it happen.
Two and a half decades later, I give you Dining with the Don with a repertoire of mafiosi both factual and fictional with names as colorful as Sam "Momo" Giancana, Joseph "Crazy Joe" Joey Gallo, Godfather Paul "The Meathead" Castellano, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel," Hank "The Bank" Smurra, Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro and so many more taking you on a journey through history going all the way back to the Roman Empire.
Dining with the Don is as spicy as a meatball and twice as tasty, with recipes to die for accompanied by stories of these infamous mobsters peppered with quotes and little known factoids about the ins and outs of organized crime that will keep you laughing as you turn the pages on the next victim. Hope you have the stomach for it!
All content of "Dining with the Don" except for credited photos are original works copyrighted by Mafia Cook. No portion may be copied or reprinted without permission of the author.