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Dishing it out
The movie, `Dinner Rush,' focuses on the often-chaotic business of food
By Kristin Eddy
Tribune staff reporter
Published January 16, 2002

"Big Night," it's not. Nor is it accurate to compare the movie, "Dinner Rush," which opens Friday at the Landmark Century Centre Cinema, to other food-themed movies such as "Babette's Feast" or "Like Water For Chocolate."

Instead--despite what some early reviews have claimed--this new drama forgoes the rapturous look at food preparation of those earlier movies for the reality of a restaurant kitchen: the heat, the noise, the tension and the often over-the-top food.

Set in New York's Tribeca district at Gigino's, an actual restaurant owned by the film's director, Bob Giraldi, the movie centers on one evening in the life of a trendy eatery where there is a line out the door and a menu that has the long-time owner in despair.

"Snapper carpaccio with blood orange juice; rabbit Piedmontese and wine reduction with chocolate," scoffs actor Danny Aiello, who plays Louie Cropa, the owner of the restaurant where his son the chef has turned the menu upside down.

"Put a meatball on their plate and they would think it was a miniature bowling ball," he complains of the customers. "I want food. There is nothing left to eat here."

"It's all for the critics," shrugs Edoardo Ballerini, who plays Udo, Aiello's son and chef.

The kitchen is only for those strong enough to handle Udo's tough direction. A line cook is fired for having a dull knife. The rest of the cooking crew hustles amidst the clatter of plates and pans, yells orders and profanity and soothes an aggravated waitstaff who know that their tips depend on getting the food out fast.

The film's writers, Chicago-based Rick Shaughnessy and Brian Kalata, came by this clear-eyed look at the business naturally--Shaughnessy having worked as a cook in restaurants in Michigan and Kalata as a bartender in Chicago--before they got into the film production. "We were saying there has got to be an interesting movie here," Shaughnessy said.

"I think that with the whole trend toward chefs being celebrities, we were pretty fascinated by why it became such a big fat show," said Shaughnessy. "We have all been to places where the room was great but the food was so-so. The room has to have great hype. The chef is trying to do some great work but also trying to please the critics."

The conflict between art and commerce is played out through a variety of characters and not just between old-school Aiello and his son who wants to dazzle with a cutting-edge menu. There's the waitress who is trying to make it as a professional artist; the gambling-obsessed sous-chef; and the complaining customers who insist on freebies for having endured any inconvenience, forcing the restaurant to lose money in order to keep people coming back.

There's also an appearance by the feared food writer, "wearing the most hideous wig," snips Vivian Wu as manager Nicole.

For the critic, played by Sandra Bernhard, chef Udo crafts a showy recipe in the only extended cooking scene. Yet unlike the classic recipes previous films have shown in tantalizing detail, this one is almost a caricature of modern cooking.

The Montauk lobster with rock shrimp in Champagne-shallot sauce with vanilla bean and mint, served with deep-fried spaghetti and a garnish of salmon roe and wasabi-infused tobiko caviar, is all ingredient name dropping, architecturally styled, fusion-y fuss. The chef proudly delivers it to the table, to murmurs of admiration.

This may not be the kind of food that movie people have come to expect, but it's truer look at the world of restaurants than viewers have been served in a long time.

Fusilli with eggplant, basil and ricotta salata
8 servings

1 1/4 pounds eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large red onion, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt, freshly ground pepper
3/4 pound fusilli (corkscrew) pasta
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
3 ounces ricotta salata, grated, see note

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Toss the eggplant, onions, garlic and olive oil in large mixing bowl. Spread eggplant mixture in a single layer on rimmed baking sheet; add salt and pepper to taste. Roast until brown and tender, about 40 minutes.

Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling; cook pasta according to package directions until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain; set aside.

Place the eggplant mixture, tomato sauce, 2 tablespoons of the basil and 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook 1 minute to heat through. Stir in cooked pasta; toss. Cook 1-2 minutes. Serve in a deep dish. Sprinkle with remaining fresh basil and ricotta salata.

Note: Ricotta salata is a lightly salted sheep's milk cheese that is pressed and dried; it has a mild, nutty flavor. We found it at Whole Foods, Fox & Obel and Treasure Island for $6-$7 a pound; Italian markets also may carry it. You may substitute another dry, salty cheese such as Parmesan or aged Asiago.

Nutrition information per serving:

270 calories, 34% of calories from fat, 10 g fat, 2.8 g saturated fat, 7 mg cholesterol, 36 g carbohydrates, 10 g protein, 360 mg sodium, 3.4 g fiber

Tuna with mashed potatoes and tomatoes
4 servings


1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon each: honey, soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon bitters, optional


4 fillets (4-6 ounces each) yellowfin tuna
3 medium potatoes
1 turnip
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon each: salt, white pepper
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup each: white sesame seeds, black sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon each: dried mint, dried thyme
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup each: red and yellow cherry or grape tomatoes

For the marinade, combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, soy sauce, ground ginger, Worcestershire sauce and bitters in a large, shallow baking dish or pie plate. Add tuna fillets; turn to coat. Cover; marinate 2 hours.

Peel potatoes and turnip; cook in boiling water to cover until soft, 12 minutes. Remove from the pan; mash with the milk, butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside; keep warm.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the bread crumbs, sesame seeds, mint, thyme, salt and white pepper on a large plate. Remove the tuna fillets from the marinade; drain. Dip into the bread crumb mixture, pressing to adhere to the tuna.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the fillets 1 minute on each side. Place in the oven; cook until just pink in the center, 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss cherry tomatoes and remaining tablespoon of oil in a small baking pan. Season with salt and pepper. Place in oven; roast until heated through and slightly shriveled, 6 minutes.

Divide the mashed potatoes among four serving plates. Slice each tuna fillet; place on top of the potatoes. Garnish with the tomatoes.

Nutrition information per serving:

585 calories, 52% of calories from fat, 35 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 75 mg cholesterol, 33 g carbohydrates, 39 g protein, 360 mg sodium, 5 g fiber

Copyright [emoji]169[/emoji] 2002, Chicago Tribune
Adapted from recipes from the movie, "Dinner Rush," at

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3,236 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
According to Entertainment Weekly Dinner Rush was due for relase on September 28 2001 in New York and be release everywhere else soon after.

To read their review click here

You can also visit Dinner Rush website.
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