sandwiches from a sad movie

The movie The Bicycle Thief (Ladri di biciclette), by Vittorio De Sica, is many things, but mostly, it's sad. sad. sad. sad. I saw it in college, and have never been able to watch it a second time because I have a thing against knowingly going into a guaranteed heartbreak situation. This is why my husband has never seen The Bicycle Thief—because whenever it's playing at a Rep house, or we run across it at the library, or in the movie rental store, I refuse to watch it. "Why is it so sad," he has often asked me. But the only scene I can tell him about is this one—the bit where the father takes his son to a restaurant, and they try to have a good time. But even here, the happiness lasts only a couple of seconds—when the little boy makes bridges with the warm mozzarella from his sandwich (grilled cheese Italian style: mozza en carozza). Then downer-daddy starts in again, worrying about money, and the lack thereof. It kind of ruins the taste, as both actors (DeSica's actors were really "just real people") make clear with such incredibly subtle shifts in posture, eye-movement, rate of mastication, and so on...

I make mozza en carozza at home fairly often. Made it tonight, in fact. These sandwiches are delicious, and very much of a kid-pleaser. When I make them, I think of this movie, and I think of a restaurant in New York called La Focacceria, which no longer exists, but which was wonderful. I used to go there with my father and we would often share sandwiches like this as an appetizer. Making mozza en carozza also reminds me of my paternal grandmother, who was Italian, and a goddess-like cook; these sandwiches were one of the many wonderful things she used to make—they always made us happy.

Mozza en Carozza:

1. make a red sauce (I saute a crushed garlic clove in some olive oil, then throw in a large can of peeled tomatoes that I've swirled in the blender for half a second.)

2. make sandwiches of thickly cut mozzarella slices on thickly cut white Italian bread (photos below show a supermarket-style ciabatta loaf, which works really well)

3. dip sandwiches, both sides and along the edges, in beaten eggs

4. dip all eggy surfaces in flour that has a bit of salt and some oregano stirred into it.

5. fry sandwiches in about a quarter cup of canola oil (olive oil is too heavy), in a nice big frying pan, on both sides, over medium heat. takes about ten minutes for everything to get crispy & melty.

Serve sprinkled with basil (or parsley). In the movie, I notice that they serve the sandwiches with lemon wedges, but I use a simple red sauce, and it's super yummy (plus, it's cute how the color combo references "il tricolore," the Italian flag).

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