How wonderful to once again spend an evening with two of the most delightful, gifted actors, Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub. Tucci also co-wrote the script and co-directed, with actor Campbell Scott.

I first saw this delicious movie when it opened at the Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville back in 1996, when the world was partially sane, somewhat safer, and the popcorn was warm.

Now thanks to the Maine Film Center, it’s come back to us just when we need it most. When the world is upside down, COVID is raging, and the White House is in terminal lockdown, along comes Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and Secundo (Stanley Tucci), two brothers who have immigrated from Italy and have established their Italian restaurant in America.

Of course, this is a New Jersey town in the late 1950s, when an Italian restaurant was required to provide spaghetti and meatballs, veal scaloppine, chianti in basket bottles and red and white checkered tablecloths.

Unfortunately, Primo is not a short order cook, but a maestro in the culinary art of fine Italian dining and is, as is I remember, a master of seafood risotto. If you have ever tasted clam risotto in Rome or in Sicily, you’ll know what I’m saying here.

If the locals want overcooked spaghetti with canned sauce delivered to their table by a singing waiter, they only need to cross the street to Pascal’s checkered table clothed cafe. Pascal is played to the hilt by British actor Ian Holm.


A rescue attempt, concocted by Pascal, is made by investing in a banquet for the very Italian bandleader, Louis Prima.

Will it work? See for yourself and enjoy the added decor of the very Italian Isabella Rossellini and very Irish Minnie Driver, who was just beginning her career.

“Big Night” is only 97 minutes long, and you can smell the risotto from here.
The film is available online at

J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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