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(Credit: Alamy)


When Anthony Bourdain dined with Francis Ford Coppola in southern Italy


Anthony Bourdain really was the rockstar of culinary television. Throughout his career, he transformed talking about food into a fine art, using his books and television programmes as vehicles for explorations into the inner reaches of human life. Of all Bourdain’s travelogues, perhaps the most beloved is his Parts Unknown series. In honour of the globe-trotting foodophile, we’d like to revisit a conversation he had with director Francis Ford Coppola over some of southern Italy’s finest culinary offerings.

Bourdain met Coppola while roaming Italy’s sepia-toned heel. Having dined on a lunch of pasta with sea urchins, one of the delicacies of the nation’s coastal regions, he and his camera crew travelled to the hilltop town of Bernalda in Matera, Basilicata. Those who watched No Time To Die will recognise Matera as the location for the film’s high-octane bridge chase sequence. In reality, this sun-soaked province is pleasurably sleepy. It also just happens to boast the ancestral pile of Francis Ford Coppola.

Bourdain met with the Apocalypse Now director at Palazzo Margherita, an opulent palace once owned by Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Party and now the property of Coppola. Their meal marked a departure from the seafood-rich cuisine Bourdain had been feasting on for most of his stay. The pair talked about Coppola’s life and career – touching on his guilt at the success of The Godfather – over a meal of Lampascioni (fried hyacinth bulbs, braciole di cotenna (stuffed pig skin rolls), and lamb’s head casserole. The cotenna frequently appeared on Coppola’s family table as a child. “I hated it,” he began, lovingly pricking the slice of meat with his fork, “but now I don’t.”

The conversation soon turned to the filmmaker’s ill feelings about The Godfather, with Coppola recalling the isolation he felt when the film made him an overnight success. According to Bourdain, he went from “a young director making a film nobody wanted with a cast nobody wanted,” to a Hollywood mainstay.”

With the splendour of their surroundings making itself blisteringly apparent, Coppola couldn’t help but bring up his family’s life in Bernalda during what he calls “Mussolini time”. “Every town had a Podestà,” he began, “the official of the fascist party. And this family [pointing to Palazzo Margherita] was the Podestà. The ladies here were so snobby. We are low-class Italians; they were more high-class Italians.” And with that, the strength of the Coppolla family – and all those willing to up-sticks to start a new life elsewhere – is made abundantly clear.

Without their sacrifices, I doubt Coppolla have had the opportunity to establish himself as one of the nation’s great directors. We owe Francis Ford a lot, but we owe the Coppola family just as much.