Saturday, March 24, 2007

Sopranos Fantasy Camp

Life in the shadow of NYC is a bit like living in a Sopranos Fantasy Camp.

A decent chunk of my work day is spent in my car, zipping back and forth between different appointments in NY and NJ. When you leave Manhattan and drive into Central Jersey, you actually follow the exact path Tony takes in The Sopranos opening montage...which is kinda cool if you watch the show. The Statute of Liberty to your left, an oil refinery to your right...I mean it's routine.

I've also discovered a little authentic Italian Deli that I hit up about twice a week. One could picture Tony and Christopher dropping by regularly to chew the fat with the boys behind the counter - and pick up a canoli for the road. Napoli's, as it's called, is straight out of every Italian stereotype you've ever seen. Behind the counters are about 5 Italian guys bustling back and forth, putting together custom orders from the steady stream of customers. Every time I've been in there, there's at minimum of 5 or 6 people in line - ordering everything you can imagine coming out of an Italian eatery. Thursday, some 60 year old lady in front of me ordered a pound of sliced Genoa Salami, and a half pound of sliced Prosciutto (so cliche I can hardly stand it). Another guy was picking up antipasta for a party, and got all these stuffed olives, artichoke hearts, and other Italian things that I can't pronounce.

Also, every time I've been in Napoli's, one of the following stereotypes has also been there:

  • A fireman or cop. Always huge, and with thick New York/Italian accents.

  • Some sort of sketchy looking dude, slightly overweight - probably collecting on a sports bet from one of the guys behind the counter.

  • An old lady from the neighborhood. Probably been coming here for 30 years.

  • And then there's a tie...probably looking terribly out of place.

Nonetheless, this place is top notch. Typically I stop in for lunch and get one of their hot sandwiches - like chicken cutlet with salami and prosciutto. Crazy good. But they've got a great Butcher area too - and I've gotten some sausages and veal cutlets to take home. (Maybe too much food network for me?)

I also find the accent of Jersey women particularly amusing. To them, my name is pronounced 'Maak' rather than Mark. A typical comment might be, "Maak, oh my gawd. Was in cold up there in Michigan?" [It's been said that people outside of Manhattan don't really know the rest of the world exists - and it's true, because they really don't know (or don't comprehend) the difference between Minnesota and Michigan. It's all the same to them.]

I haven't stumbled across any real Mafioso types yet - and truthfully, out here you're just as likely to meet an Investment Banker from Cleveland as you are to meet an authentic New Yorker named Guido. But still, to drive down the road with The Empire State Building right in front of you is a bit more lively than a strip mall in Maple Grove.

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