"Ah, now we can eat," Paul Sorvino's mob-boss character, Paul Cicero, proclaims in Goodfellas once cellmate Henry Hill pulls a bottle of red wine out from the bag he has smuggled into prison. Sorvino, 66, has more than 100 other screen and television credits to his name, including films such as The Firm, Bulworth and Nixon. Now he is starring in the role of Tony in the New York City Opera run of The Most Happy Fella, a musical that takes place in Napa Valley. (Two of the March show dates even feature preperformance tastings of Napa wines). Like both his mobster and vineyard-owner characters, Sorvino thinks that wine is an indispensable part of a good meal.
Wine Spectator: How does The Most Happy Fella relate to wine?
Paul Sorvino: [I play] a guy who's an immigrant grape rancher, a simple fellow, very good-hearted, sweet-natured, who falls in love with a waitress in San Francisco. It's a very sweet story. The music is spectacular. [Since the show's 1956 debut] Napa's become world-class. It's a very beautiful area.
WS: How often do you drink wine?
PS: Two or three times a week. Whenever I'm at a restaurant, I drink wine, and especially when I'm at home, if I'm having steak or something heavy. I like the Italian Amarone very much. I also like a nice Beaujolais, depending on what I'm having for dinner, or a good Pinot Noir. Also Sassicaia, some of those wonderful Italian wines.
WS: What role did wine play in your family when you were growing up?
PS: My father didn't drink because he had ulcers, so we didn't drink at all. I picked it up as I came into manhood. When my father's ulcers were cured, we'd buy this rustico jug wine, so we had a little bit then. Wine's not a big part of my life, but it's a necessary part of a well-rounded meal.
WS: What are some of your favorite things to cook, and what wines do you like to serve with them?
PS: Mostly Neapolitan food, since I'm Neapolitan by blood. So we have things like the meat sauce, marinara, seafood marinara. With these things, you'd serve a Barolo or Amarone. And I like a Chardonnay in the afternoon, or if I'm having fish. With Italian food, a Chianti Riserva is nice. I always have some Chianti Riserva around, and I always have one or two good bottles of Amarone. If it's five or six years old, that's my favorite.
WS: Do you really slice garlic with a razor blade, or was that just for Goodfellas?
PS: Certainly not. I use a very sharp paring knife, but I do keep my knives razor sharp. I have very good knives, and I sharpen them weekly. That makes all the difference in the world. I don't use a food processor—I do everything by hand. I enjoy that.
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