When I tasted wines at the spectacularly
restored Niebaum-Coppola vineyard and estate in Napa Valley,
Calif., last summer, I never imagined that months later Francis
Ford Coppola, godfather of "The Godfather," would be
sitting at a red-and-white checked table on Eighth Street in
Park Slope chatting over bowls of his pasta and sauce.
But that’s exactly where this connoisseur of fine wines and creator
of movie classics was on Monday – outside the Morisi-Coppola
Pasta Factory between Third and Fourth avenues, hosting an Italian
festa to celebrate both expansion plans for his Mammarella brand
of dried pasta and his father’s birthday.
Paramount Home Entertainment co-hosted the event with Coppola
to announce the release this October of a DVD collection of the
three "Godfather" films, which will include Coppola’s
For fans of his wines, which range from an inexpensive "Coppola"
to an exclusively priced "Rubicon," it comes as no
surprise that the filmmaker would come up with his own brand
of pasta. And just as he went to California to make fine wines,
he came to Brooklyn to make "authentic Italian" pasta.
The filmmaker partnered in 1998 with Park Sloper Peter Morisi,
owner of Morisi Macaroni, to form the Morisi-Coppola Pasta Factory.
Coppola had already been selling the pastas in his winery’s gift
shop, but it was not until Morisi hit hard times that the two
joined forces. The wholesale factory makes the pastas sold under
Coppola’s Mammarella label.
Both Morisi and Coppola have a passion for high quality. Coppola
seems to feel his drive for perfection stems from his ethnicity.
"Italians are good at anything they do – even being gangsters,"
he said with a smile, when asked by a reporter at Monday’s press
conference cum block party whether he wasn’t stereotyping Italians
in the "Godfather" films.
Morisi and Coppola’s determination to preserve centuries-old
traditions is why the company makes these handcrafted pastas
in the pasta rustica style found in southern Italy.
The four Mammarella cuts – gemelli, farfallone, quadrefiore and
rosette (12 ounces sell for $3.99) – are made using antique bronze
molds and dried on wooden racks as they were more than 100 years
On Monday, Morisi demonstrated the 1913 pasta press, or extruder,
he uses to make the quadrefiore, or "square flowers,"
pasta. Next to him, in a beige linen suit, Coppola demonstrated
to the audience of press and paparazzi the heavy bronze molds
Morisi was using to form the thick pasta shapes.
"He loves the place. I remind him of his Uncle Ziggy,"
Morisi told GO Brooklyn. "He’s a gourmand and a raconteur.
The old machine gives the pasta a substantially more chewy quality.
The dough, made of durum wheat flour, is pushed through the press,
fitted with the brass plates.
"The pasta has a rough texture, which absorbs the sauce
better," said Morisi. The quadrefiore falls out from the
press onto simple, wood-framed screens and goes into a drying
room where it will dry "naturally with low temperature drying"
for four to five days, according to Morisi.
Coppola’s pastas feature a picture of his mother, Italia, at
age 17, on the Mammarella label. Mammarella, which means "dear
little mama," is the family’s affectionate term for their
grandmother. His mother is now 89.
Coppola also offers three organic sauces from family recipes
that reflect his Neapolitan heritage: arrabbiata, pomodoro basilico
To create a true homemade taste, organic chopped tomatoes are
used versus conventional tomato paste and no sugar or additional
salt is added to the Mammarella line.
Arrabbiata means "angry" in Italian and is appropriate
for this spicy sauce with slivers of fresh garlic, chopped parsley,
red pepper and a hint of red wine – which simply had too much
zest for my delicate palate. The pomodoro basilico (tomato basil)
has "a lot of chopped onion, but no garlic" according
to Coppola – and was a sweeter success. The puttanesca is a true
representation of this hearty Italian favorite with chunks of
garlic, whole capers and olives. (The sauces sell for about $6
for 26 ounces.)
Eighth Street residents Monday sampled free bowls of the pastas
and peppers, rustic breads and glasses of Coppola wines – his
Chardonnay being a much touted favorite on the hot and humid
The June 11 event was also a celebration of Coppola’s father’s
birthday, or Carmine Coppola Day as proclaimed by a banner inside
the main tent. Carmine Coppola, who died in 1991 was a composer
who scored parts of the "The Godfather" as well as
"My dad was very clever," said Coppola, who grew up
in Great Neck, NY. "Every year on June 11 he took us to
Coney Island, to the Steeplechase. So each year we were as excited
about June 11 as we were about Christmas."
Coppola added a bit of life to the event with a brass band that
performed music by Carmine Coppola and fellow "Godfather"
composer Nino Rota. Coppola also had Eighth Street transformed
with green and red tinsel spanning the street and Italian flags
fluttering along the iron railings of the front stoops, by long-time
collaborator and Oscar-winning production designer, Dean Tavoularis.
Coppola joked that while making a movie may take a year and a
half to develop, then a year to get the green light to make it
and a year to film and edit it, "with food, you take 20
to 30 minutes and you’re done and they love it. They say, ’that
Though it’s unlikely he’ll set up another Tuscan fantasyland
like his Niebaum-Coppola vineyard in Brooklyn, perhaps Coppola
will consider establishing another Cafe Niebaum-Coppola on Brooklyn’s
Fifth or Seventh avenues. (There’s one in San Francisco’s Italian
enclave, North Beach, after all.)
Until then, we can enjoy the substantial Mammarella pastas and,
as Morisi says, share his enthusiasm to "keep the tradition
alive" in one Park Slope pasta factory.
Mammarella pastas and other shapes and
flavors are sold in the Morisi-Coppola Pasta Factory store [186
Eighth St., (718) 788-2299] on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 am
to 3 pm.