Sometimes the tastiest morsels come in the smallest packages. Witness this comedy-drama set in a Manhattan eaterie owned by bookmaker Louis (Danny Aiello) but run by his son, nouvelle cuisine whizz kid Udo (Edoardo Ballerini).
Over the course of one night, both have problems. For Louis, it’s a pair of hoods from Queens who have offed his partner and are trying to muscle in on his business. For Udo, it’s the arrival of a food critic (Sandra Bernhard), upon whom his future depends.
After a slow opening, Bob Giraldi – a pop video director who shot the film in one of the 10 restaurants he owns – juggles the various storylines and characters with tremendous skill. When he’s not hopping from table to table, bringing customers to life and involving us in their conversations, he’s diving downstairs to check what’s going on in the kitchen.
What emerges is an Altmanesque ensemble piece that’s packed with strong performances. Aiello has never been better than as the genial patriarch, while The Brothers McMullen’s Mike McGlone is superb as one of the two mobsters. And then there’s Summer Phoenix (The Believer) as the sweet-hearted waitress who proves her brothers don’t have a monopoly on the family talent.
One note of warning, though: better dine beforehand, for the mouthwatering dishes whipped up in Udo’s kitchen will have you salivating throughout.