Films for Foodies: Big Night Takes Italian Cuisine to Cinematic Heights

Categories: Food in Film

Why this is a foodie film
Unlike the previous film I highlighted (The Silence of the Lambs), Big Night is overtly about food and what goes on in the kitchen and behind the scenes of a restaurant. Not only is the preparation of some of the dishes filmed in such a step-by-step manner that the footage could almost be used as a recipe, but it's also an interesting look into some less well-known traditional Italian cuisine, like the timpano.

The fictional timpano is related to the timballo, which means drum, and is constructed in a variety of ways depending upon the country and region. In Big Night, it's an old-school Italian recipe that includes a thin layer of puff pastry, pasta, tomato sauce, meat, and hardboiled eggs layered one on top of the other and then baked like a casserole-lasagne hybrid. The scene in which the timpano is finally served is now a classic, thanks to Pascal's terrifyingly hilarious line at the end (see below).

Also notable is the fact that if the film employed a food stylist, he/she chose not to overdo it with the glitz and glam often found in food on the big screen. The dishes look as if they were prepared in a modest kitchen (albeit by a master chef). Rather than creating items that look too good to eat, the chefs prepare food that make viewers want to reach through the screen and grab a bite for themselves.

Best food scene
These scenes track the production of the timpano, followed by its service to the hungry crowd. The first clip shows -- masterfully -- how it's assembled, while the second scene builds tension. Is it as perfect as it should be? Will the people love it? Check it out:

What you should eat
Though I don't know of any restaurants in Houston that prepare the equivalent of a timpano, some of the best, most awe-inspiring Italian food I've had in town has come from Ciao Bello.

I always dine in at the chic Galleria-area restaurant, but I've seen many people order meals to-go from the bar, and they look perfectly packaged to make it home hot and ready for dinner. To get in the full spirit of Big Night, you're going to need lots of wine, for starters. Perhaps a nice Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. Pair that with some bruschetta di scamorza, osso buco ravioli and parmesan-crusted red snapper ravello.

Not quite the same as the jaw-dropping timpano, but molto bene just the same.

Location Info



Ciao Bello

5161 San Felipe St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

My Voice Nation Help

Fantastic article about a fabulous movie, reading it really put me in the mood to feast on some Italian food! Are we really pushing 20 years since 'Big Night' came out? Wow. Great soundtrack too.

For anyone looking for other Italian movies with food as a key element, I highly recommend the Italian comedy Mid-August Lunch (2008).


Fantastic article about a fabulous movie (which also boasts an outstanding soundtrack.


Isabella R = yum!


Since I saw this movie in the theater years ago, I've been yearning to dine on an authentic timpano, if there is such a thing. Anywhere in Houston? Anywhere in the world? Anyone know?


This movie is my food porn.  I salivate to it.



And if he does, you should invite me and my wife (seems like you had a crowd the last time). 

We aren't weird (ok, a little weird), and we are both very interesting people. Plus my wife makes killer pumpkin pie! And I'll bring 2 bottles of good wine.

Will probably be in Houston for Christmas . . . BTW, thanks for the info and video--interesting. 


@James.Brock2013 Oh, those do look good!  That could be a lot of fun for Christmas, though now that I rewatched the video, I may make my husband redo the timpano this year. That thing was delicious.  

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