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Italian Food His Way: Frank Sinatra’s Favorites

January 4, 2013 Carlino's Restaurant no comments

“Sinatra appreciated his father’s skill in the kitchen”

When looking at what famous Italians have eaten throughout history, it’s impossible to overlook Italian-American cuisine, and few people appreciated it as much as Frank Sinatra. One of the century’s greatest entertainers, the Chairman of the Board stayed in touch with his Italian heritage by ordering his favorite dishes no matter where he traveled.

Marinara sauce was one of Sinatra’s culinary passions. He published the recipe for his mother’s tomato sauce in a cookbook and even launched his own line of bottled sauce in the late 1980s. His recipe called for ripe roma tomatoes, olive oil, not too much onion and plenty of garlic. His daughter, Nancy, recalled in her memoirs that her father told her to order spaghetti in marinara sauce as a first course in an Italian restaurant, asserting that if they got the sauce just right, they’d do the rest of the food justice.

Another way Sinatra loved a rich tomato sauce was with eggplant Parmigiana. Following his mother’s recipe once again, his favorite version calls for dredging and crisping the eggplant in a pan before layering it in a dish and baking it with Parmesan and mozzarella cheese. Quickly pan-frying the eggplant before it goes in the baking dish turns it lusciously soft and tender by the time it leaves the oven. The combination of crisp and creamy textures is just as irresistible to other fans of this Italian favorite as it was to Ol’ Blue Eyes.

Clams Posillipo takes its name from a Neapolitan neighborhood, but like Frank Sinatra, it’s an Italian-American classic. Littleneck clams with a light tomato sauce enriched with olive oil and a splash of the flavorful broth in which the clams were cooked was a delicious and economical Friday meal in the Sinatra household, and Frank never lost his taste for the dish and swore the West Coast versions just weren’t the same as the clams he remembered in New York.

Although he loved his mother’s recipes, Sinatra also appreciated his father’s skill in the kitchen. One of his favorite dishes to make was veal Milanese, a simple dish of veal pounded thin and rolled in breadcrumbs before pan-frying. A little grated Parmigiano-Reggiano in the breadcrumbs and a twist of lemon at the end were his secret ingredients to a perfect veal Milanese. Carlino’s version also features the lemon wedge that adds just the right tartness to set off the mild, crisp veal.

Sinatra enjoyed Italian wines, but he occasionally enjoyed something a little stronger before or after dinner. Although he liked martinis, the classic Manhattan was always a favorite, especially with a good blended whiskey in place of the standard rye. He also favored two fingers of Jack Daniel’s on ice with just enough water to cover the ice – not too much ice, though, or he’d admonish the waiter that he “wanted to drink it, not skate on it.”

Frank Sinatra was a legendary entertainer on stage or on film, but to his friends and family, he was just as skilled at throwing a lavish party with outstanding food and drinks. As an ambassador for Italian-American dining, he helped shape what America ate, bringing once-exotic foods to the rest of the country along with his incomparable velvet voice.


Carlo, Wali and your friends at Carlino’s

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