Welcome to my new Blog, Mambo Non-Italiano. In today’s crazy cancel culture, where cartoon characters have to be ethnically cleansed and there are casting quotas where Henry VIII could be played by an Asian woman, who self-identifies as something else, well you know where I’m going. I wanted to add my take on this hotly contested debate, in a subtler, more relaxed environment, like my Uncle’s talking about which jockey’s were on the take at the local Harness track.

Editor’s Note: Please pick up Tom’s new novel The Art of Looking for Troublenow available in e-book and paperback.

A few things upfront, I am not on a mission. I have not social wrong I want to make right. I got the idea for this blog from watching the very fine movie Green Book. Viggo Mortensen was nominated for Best Actor but lost to an Englishman playing an Englishman. Mortensen played the real-life Italian Tony Lip. Mortensen was great in the role all except for one small problem; he’s not Italian. He doesn’t look Italian. He can’t make Pasta Fagioli. He acted Italian but isn’t that supposed to be something we aren’t supposed to be doing now? So, I thought I would blog about the roles of Italian characters that were played by non-Italians.

A few ground rules I’m going by so please don’t get too technical on me like that actress had a great-grandmother on her mother’s side from Calabria. I’m going to go solely by the actor’s last name. If the actor was born Smith and changed their name to Gualtieri, then buona fortuna. I’m not going to go to Ancestry or 23 and Me to check their DNA. Last name only.

Another ground rule is that I’m going to issue a few passes. If you watched the Soprano’s you know that there were sit downs to discuss someone getting a pass. First and foremost is James Caan. How can I not give a pass to Sonny Corleone?

Next is one of my favorite actors, Tony Shalhoub. If you did not see his portrayal of Primo in Big Night, then go to whatever streaming service you have and watch it right now. As a former chef I can say with a thousand percent certainty that Big Night is the greatest restaurant movie of all time. Shalhoub was also the voice of Luigi in Cars, but he scoffs at anyone who dares to think something Italian is not the best. We can discuss other passes; I welcome the debate. Harvey Keitel? We can go all day on him.

At this point you, may be saying, “but Tom you are Italian, and your novel is about a bunch of Irish guys at an Irish bar.” (At least that’s what you’ll be saying after you buy, read and give my novel five stars on Amazon.) That is true but I did throw in the token Italian which was the story of my life growing up in Syracuse, New York. I was always the token Italian.

Okay back to Viggo. He was great as I said. He had the lingo, the mannerisms and played them all well enough to garner an Academy Award nomination. But all of that could not convince me that he was Italian. I never doubted for a second that Tony Shalhoub wasn’t Italian. When he calls the lady, who wants a side of pasta with her risotto a Philistine, he was Italian. Viggo just couldn’t pull it off. He couldn’t get past being a Viking. Italians cook on Vikings; Vikings don’t play Italians.

In my next edition we will discuss Cher in Moonstruck. Moonstruck is a great Italian movie but does Cher get a pass?  Grazie, thank you.