You know I like a good sandwich and a good story. I was at Cafe Rustico in the Bullfinch Triangle pondering the menu and I noticed that all the sandwiches were pretty much named for their contents – pollo, rucola, meatball – but one was named for a fictional gangster, the Luca Brazi [sic]. I asked, why is this sandwich so named? The reply came that the owner thought that the seasonings in the sandwich embodied the character from the Godfather. What’s in the Luca Brasi? (Rustico spells it with a z but the novel has it with an s)
So does the grilled chicken represent the loyal soldier and the roasted pepper the murderous thug? Matching food to literary or cinematic themes is dicey business, just ask my book club. Luca Brasi utters one of the most memorable lines in the Godfather film and is the subject of another, so there is some material to work with that would probably we widely understood even by folks not obsessively versed in Godfather lore. Don’t get me wrong, Rustico’s sandwich is tasty and well-prepared, I just think we can design a more Luca Brasi-esque sandwich. Let’s start at the start of the film:
Luca Brasi: “Don Corleone, I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to your home on the wedding day of your daughter. And may their first child be a masculine child.”
In which Luca feels a fish out of water, uncomfortable in his tuxedo at the swanky Corleone wedding, he nervously repeats to himself what he intends to say to Don Corleone. Here Brasi is comic relief, it’s early in the film and we don’t know much about him yet. This sandwich would be light-hearted, ham-fisted, and somehow wedding-themed.
Luca’s Wedding Sandwich: Two small kaiser rolls, each with thick cut rare roast beef overflowing, with endive, capers and olive tapenade.
If that’s too silly, let’s go for the better-known Luca Brasi reference:
[Tessio brings in Luca Brasi’s bulletproof vest, delivered with a fish inside]
Sonny: What the hell is this?
Clemenza: It’s a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.
[SPOILER ALERT] Brasi has been killed by Sollozzo and his men; they send the message back to the Corleone family. Plenty of material here depending on your tolerance for an assasination-themed sandwich.
The Sicilian Message: Grilled sardines on ciabatta with guanciale (apologies to Lenny Montana, that’s bacon made from pig jowls) roasted red peppers, red onions and field greens; cut in half with piano wire or stabbed through the middle with a knife and wrapped in brown paper.
If those seem a little too much trouble, I understand. In Hoboken, there’s a whole deli named for Luca Brasi and their namesake sandwich is simply Italian tuna with fresh mozzarella, can’t really argue with that. Just don’t put your hand on the bar when you order it.