Stanley Tucci, Tony Shalhoub
In a word, yum. Tucci (sleazebucket Richard Cross on last season’s Murder One) and Shalhoub are immigrant brothers from Italy trying to make a go of their restaurant on the Jersey shore in the late ’50s. Or, rather, Tucci, the maitre d’ and the more assimilated of the two, is trying to make a go of it. Shalhoub, the chef, has an artist’s indifference to public taste. When a diner asks for a side order of spaghetti with risotto, he screams, “Philistine!” Without such hungry Philistines, however, the mortgage can’t be paid. Then a flashy, friendly rival down the block (Ian Holm) promises a golden opportunity: He’ll deliver singer Louis Prima and his band to Tucci’s place for a post-rehearsal supper.
The climactic banquet is the most succulent parade of courses since Babette’s Feast. But the real pleasure of Big Night, which Tucci scripted (with a cousin, Joseph Tropiano) and directed (with his friend, actor Campbell Scott), is watching good performers tuck into well-written roles. Demonically energetic, Holm practically bounces through the movie. As his unfaithful wife, Isabella Rossellini is sly and glamorous. And Allison Janney, as the florist Shalhoub loves from afar, waits to be courted with beatific patience, mingled with a slight air of bafflement, (R)