In his new cable cooking show, Steve Schirripa’s Hungry (Lifeskool network, debuting December 6), Uncle June’s faithful manservant Bobby Baccalieri tours his favorite New York Italian kitchens and takes some sauce-splattered pointers from pals like Rao’s Frank Pellegrino and Peasant’s Frank De Carlo. Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld asked the man Tony Soprano immortalized as a “calzone with legs” to expound on his favorite pastime eating on and off the set.
There are a lot of cooking shows out there these days. What distinguishes yours from the competition?
This is a real guy going into a real kitchen; I think after you watch this, you’re really going to learn how to make the meatballs from Rao’s. It’s a combination of talking, comedy, and how-to.
Who does the cooking at home?
My wife; I eat, she cooks. Which is why I’m doing this new show. They’re teaching me how to cook.
In one episode, you spotlight the Mulberry Street restaurant Il Cortile. Do you think that Little Italy gets a bad rap?
I think it does. First of all, it’s a lot of fun down there. There’s a lot of tourists, but Il Cortile is as good an Italian restaurant as any in the city.
New York’s little red book, the 2008 Zagat guide, is out today. It is more significant to the restaurant world than the Michelin guide, and for good reason: The same people who use it are the ones who write it. So what if it’s a popularity contest? Life is a popularity contest. There were some minor shakeups in this year’s rankings, such as Union Square Cafe retaking its sibling Gramercy as most popular restaurant, and Daniel retaking the top spot in cuisine from Le Bernardin. But the more interesting points required a slightly closer look.