LEAVE THE GUN
In the movie "The Godfather" Don Corleone's trusted caporegime "Fat" Peter Clemenza cemented his place in mob cinema history when he gave hitman Rocco Lampone, the sage advice "Leave the gun, take the cannoli." Not in the original script, late actor Richard Castellano improvised the now oft quoted legendary line. Tipping the scales at a deuce plus, the Sicilian bulldog looked like he had eaten more than his lion's share of those crispy sweet cream filled tubes.
One would hate to think what would have been the fate of hitman Rocco had he taken the gun and left the cannoli on the seat next to that dead strunz, Paulie Gatto. That Bronx bum soldato, who nearly got Don Corleone assassinated, defected to Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo. He deserved the three slugs Lampone put into his head. Had Rocco gotten confused in the heat of the moment and left the cannoli, he might've wound up like his paisan Luca Brasi sleeping with the fishes at the bottom of the East River.
If you grew up Sicilian, you're born with the cannoli gene.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are the two big holidays that are synonymous with cannoli - wouldn't be complete without platters of Italian pastry and cookies. There was only one place to get the best: Veniero's Bakery on East 11th Street in NYC's east village. Thanksgivings my dad and I would leave the house early, get on the Northern Parkway to the Midtown Tunnel then shoot straight down Second Ave. If it was early enough we'd make it in about 40 minutes. By 9 the line was all the way up the block and around the corner no matter how early or how cold. It could be zero with a wind chill factor of -20, but if you tasted these cannoli, you'd gladly freeze your ass off. Same ritual to get into Radio City for the Christmas pageant where Michael and Kay were when Don Corleone was gunned down. That was always at least a two-hour wait to watch the precision kick line of the Rockettes, a movie and the nativity scene with real camels and donkeys on stage!
Standing in the bakery line wasn't that bad if you pre-ordered as my mother was always smart enough to do. There were a couple of other pastries besides the cannoli worth waiting for...pastaciotti, flakey sfogliatelle, but cannoli was and still is king. Baklava, eclairs and linzer tortes, none can compare. With an espresso/cappuccinno, it's a life-changing cultural and culinary experience. Then there's only one cookie that takes the cake; pignoli, Italian macaroons. Sorry Manischewitz, your wimpy, sticky, coconutty approved-for-Passover, blessed-by-a rabbi parve version just doesn't cut it once you've taken a bite into a pignoli made with almond paste and topped
with toasted pine nuts. Follow this canolli recipe from an authentic Sicilian bakery brought back from Palermo where they originated as a symbol of fertility. Once your gumad gets a taste, she'll greet you every time with, "Is that a cannoli in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?" You'll have your guests dropping their guns, dancing the tarantella and begging for seconds! A capisce?
1-1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons lard (live dangerously except
if you live in NYC where trans fats are now banned.
You can substitute new Crisco w/o breaking the law,
or start a new business bootlegging Crisco)but don't
expect the same flavor.)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Red wine (Moscato or Marsala are best)
Squirt of lemon
Salt to taste
Sift flour, sugar and salt into a bowl.
Add lard, lemon and gradually enough wine to
make a soft dough. Wrap dough in a cloth and
let rest in fridge, best overnight. When ready
to use roll into a very thin sheet and cut
into 3” squares. Lay a metal tube** (gun barrel
can be substituted or 4-1/2 lengths of iron piping,
the kind used for a turban*)diagonally on each square
and bring 2 corners together, wetting and pressing to
seal. Deep fry (screw the free radicals!) the pastry
with the tube in hot oil until golden. When cool,
remove the tube and let cool completely.
Save in air tight container in a cool place till ready to
1/2 lb.ricotta cheese
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla*** (the
real extract, not vanilla flavoring
if you don’t wanna a visit from Rocco
Put ricotta and sugar through a strainer
(sieve) 2x and add vanilla.
Fill the scorze when ready
to serve. If you fill before,
pistachio nuts. Some like to mix in citronella or chocolate chips with the cream mixture or substitute mascarpone for ricotta. Plate and dust each cannoli lightly with powdered sugar.
If you wanna gain favor with the Don, serve with espresso
(don't be a jabone and call it expresso). Add a shot of anisetta with a twist of lemon peel and you'll understand why cannoli were the perfect Sicilian fertility food!
Mafia Speak Glossary
strunz - stroonz - worthless piece of shit; That strunz Paulie got what he deserved.
soldato - soul-dah-toe - a mafia soldier who's a made
man. Vinnie G got whacked for mouthing off even though
he's a soldato.
paisan - pies-on - a bro, homie - Hey paisan, get me another
cannoli cuz this one's as soft as your head.
jambone - jam-bone - asshole; That Johnny "Picks" is some jambone.
He never picks up the tab when we go out.
turban - tur-ban - to crack someone's head open - Didja hear bout that Vinny G? He got caught skimming, and someone gave him a turban.
*The Godfather" script, Paramount, 3rd draft by Mario Puzo and Francis
**If you live anyplace where they say Eye-talian, gun barrels abound
as this is good-ole-boy, card-carrying NRA country, but in a pinch,
heavy duty doubled aluminum foil will work.
***Watkins Co. This is probably the best vanilla out there and "Door-to-Door"
salesman Bill Porter is the go-to guy on this: http://www.watkinsonline.com/billporter/
GUMBA GRAPEVINE: It's been rumored that since the NY ban on
trans fats, local crime families are looking into bootlegging
the stuff since cannoli sales have dropped off due to use
of less flavorful substitutes and trans fat wannabees.
All content of "Dining with the Don" except for credited photos and
derivative credited works is an original work copyrighted by Mafia Cook. No portion may be copied or reprinted without permission of