by Michael Tucker
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pastaitaly.jpg“With all that great food in Italy, how do you guys stay so thin?”

This kind question came during a book talk we gave last Monday night in Holbrook, New York – at the Sachem Public Library. It was very generous of the questioner to include me in the “thin” category along with Jill, but indeed I still wear the same suit size I did back in our L.A. Law days twenty-some years ago. I’m not thin, but at least I’m not any fatter than I was then.

We answered her by pointing that Italians don’t eat much processed food and that makes it much easier to keep our weight down over there. But of course it’s not just what they eat that allows them to maintain una bella figura, it’s also how much they eat – or how little, I should say. Italians don’t pile it on like we tend to do over here. A bowl of pasta is not intended to fill you; it’s to prepare your mouth and stomach for your second course.

This truth was driven home dramatically a little later in the evening. After our talk we went for dinner locally at Mamma Lombardi’s, which is billed as a Napolitano restaurant, but is, of course, an Italian-American eatery. That’s fine, I thought. I love Italian-American food, and indeed their food is quite good. They offered whole-wheat pasta as a substitution for all their spaghetti, linguini and penne dishes, which was great for Jill. She ordered the whole-wheat spaghetti with eggplant, which she loves.

pastausa.jpgHer pasta arrived and I swear it could have a fed an entire soccer team – a professional soccer team. It was immense.

“I should have ordered a half portion,” said Jill to the waiter.

“We only do half portions for children,” he replied. A half-portion of this pasta would have killed a child under twelve. He would have disappeared under it and suffocated. Jill asked if they could box it up to take home and they, of course, did that immediately. When the box came out, I thought we’d have to rent a U-Haul.

All this reminds me of a story I heard recently. Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller were attending a party in Easthampton at the home of a billionaire Wall Street type. And Vonnegut said to Heller, “How does this make you feel? This guy makes more money in one day that “Catch-22” made in its entire lifetime.” Heller shrugged and said, “I have something this guy will never have. I have enough.”


Michael Tucker is an actor and author whose third book is the recently published Family Meals: Coming Together to Care for an Aging Parent.  You can read more about his food adventures on his blog Notes from a Culinary Wasteland.

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