The Godfather by Mario Puzo

I’m a bore on the topic of books vs. films, as I’ve been told many times, and I’d have to agree. Don’t get me started on whether the film version is better than the book, because I will wax poetic for a good hour or two about the merits of the book and how the book is ALWAYS better than the film. However, I must come clean and shamefacedly admit that I have never in my life read Mario Puzo’s masterpiece The Godfather. Until now, that is.


I’ve seen the film, of course. Like 30 times. Possibly more. I own the trilogy, for God’s sake. I can quote the movie nearly line-by-line (another reason not to watch movies with me because I will irritate the shit out of you by doing that) and I will gladly debate the merits of that much-maligned film The Godfather III, because I personally think it has many hidden gems within it. Just try to ignore Sofia Coppola’s performance and give her a break…..she was young and there are worse actresses in the world.


Unless you live under a rock, you know the storyline. The Corleone family patriarch, Vito, runs a crime syndicate in 1950s New York. He has three sons, Santino (Sonny), Frederico (Fredo), and Michael, and a daughter, Constanza (Connie.) All are very different, and Sonny is expected to take over the family business, but when he is executed Mafia-style and when Vito Corleone has an attempt made on his life, Michael takes over, becomes the Don and is far more cold and ruthless than his father ever could be.


I was surprised at how removed the narration of the book was, though. It’s told from the third-person, but even from that remove, it is a very cold and clinically written book of a passionate family. The dichotomy was odd, though it worked extremely well because when you read the scenes of violence, murder, etc., the emotional remove makes them much more powerful. I was also surprised at how Michael’s Sicilian wife, Apolonia, was portrayed. In the film, she has very much a personality, flirtatious and passionate and quite funny, actually. In the book, she really isn’t given much character at all, beyond being this gorgeous, sexual creature that Michael falls passionately in love with and must possess, until she is, of course, killed in the car explosion meant for him.’


In terms of food, I had initially planned to recreate the scene where Clemenza teaches Michael to make  homemade ragú sauce when Michael is in hiding before killing Sollozzo and McCluskey, frying the garlic, etc. It’s a classic food scene and I love nothing more than making tomato sauces because it’s so relaxing. But I then I read the scene where a pregnant Connie cooks a meal of veal with peppers for her dickwad husband Carlo, and when he tells her to fuck off, she loses her temper, smashes the dishes on the table, and he proceeds to beat the living hell out of her.


“I’m not hungry yet,” he said, still reading the racing form. “It’s on the table,” Connie said stubbornly. “Stick it up your ass,” Carlo said. He drank off the rest of the whiskey in the water glass, tilted the bottle to fill it again. He paid no more attention to her. Connie went into the kitchen, picked up the plates filled with food and smashed them……..the loud crashes brought Carlo in from the bedroom. He looked at the greasy veal and peppers splattered all over the kitchen walls and his finicky neatness was outraged. “You filthy guinea spoiled brat……clean that up right now or I’ll kick the shit out of you.” And he does, using a belt and his fists.

Pretty awful, both in the book and the film clip above, but it did start me thinking about veal. I had never made veal saltimbocca and this seemed like an excellent way to honor the Corleone family. This method comes from the legendary Anna del Conte’s book Gastronomy of Italy, which in my opinion, is like the Bible of contemporary Italian cooking. Her method does involve making the veal into little rolls, or involtini, so my friend Luca Marchiori says these should be called vitello involtino.


10 thin veal veal cutlets
10 slices prosciutto
10 fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup flour, for dusting the veal
Salt and pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup white wine

Lay out the veal cutlets on a flat surface.


Place a strip of prosciutto and one sage leave atop each piece of meat.


Roll up each veal cutlet and secure  with a toothpick to hold its shape.


Mix salt and pepper into the flour, and dredge each veal roll in the seasoned flour.


In a heavy skillet, heat the olive oil and melt the butter in it, and when hot and bubbly, add in five of the veal rolls, browning on each side. I estimate it was roughly 5 minute per side. Don’t crowd the frying pan because they won’t brown and your lovely $25.00 veal cutlets will have gone to waste. I’m too cheap to want that.


Let cool and fry the other five rolls.


Remove the last rolls from the still-hot pan, and pour in the white wine, whisking and letting it bubble until it thickens into a lovely, syrupy reduction sauce, about 10 minutes. Pour over the veal rolls. The smell is amazing!


Et voila! Veal saltimbocca, or as my friend Luca Marchiori suggested, vitelli involtini since they are rolled. Whatever. They are absolutely, mouth-wateringly delicious!


Serve with some lovely, buttery polenta and roasted red bell peppers….hence, veal and peppers! Just don’t throw the food across the room a la Connie Corleone.


23 thoughts on “The Godfather by Mario Puzo

    1. Thank you so much! Yes the film is definitely one of my favorites, actually the entire trilogy is 1 of my favorites. I did like the book but in this case I definitely prefer the film.


  1. I guess some movies never go out of viewers, I just checked it, was filmed in 1972!!!

    Couldn’t believe I saw, it that long ago…

    Although, unlike you maybe have seeing it no more than three times, maybe is time to see it again, wife throwing tantrum, ruining a good meal, and getting beat up, by mafioso abusive husband, but I will skip the book.

    Thank you for bringing it back to my memory. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally understand. The book is very good but I definitely feel the film is far superior. And what’s interesting is there are so many sub plot lines in the book that don’t seem to have a whole lot to do with the overall story and that Coppola did not include in the film. If you do try the recipe let me know how it comes out for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. …been… god, more than a decade since saltimbocca. (partly, for me… the scent, name, popularity, appearance, all so promising… often… it doesn’t quite live up to expectation or alternatives, particularly at trattoria, Not to mention finding good veal…) though this post has in effect prompted me. I suppose I’ll give them a shot sometime over the next few weeks after such a long time. (Likeley the quail-sage plates and grilled turkey replaced it.) For the book-movie…. the music. It simply reminds me too much of a culture I’m too familiar with, the.. well, bad parts, specific moments that were determinate (something Coppola does pretty well.) I’m weary of family bearing…oranges….

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    1. Like anything, the quality of the ingredients is as much a part of how good a dish comes out. I was very fortunate to find some very high quality organic veal, though it was on the pricey side. But since I don’t buy this type of food very often nor eat it often, so I think it’s worthwhile to do occasionally. So I’m guessing the music from the movie reminds you of something bad in your life or that you had an association with? I’ve actually talked to a couple of other people from Italian families who have said the same thing about the film’s soundtrack. That’s very interesting……..

      Liked by 1 person

      1. …yeah…I imagine in various forms certain scenes with familiar thematics happened more, and sometimes still, to women and second born men, always depending on the family and circumstance, again. But… it can be quite… determinate in its destructive of, well, your life if you remain. Role in family. pater paternus. By now that culture has mostly dissipated, for both worse and better… but lives quite literally moved in one direction instead of another. And yes, that music hits it, fatalist, not quite stoic. At the same time, where it works (alas… I did not have that good to balance the bad, I’m afraid. I should be very anti-southern italian, but I’m not,) it’s great having the warmth.


    2. When I saw the title of your post my first thought was ‘I hope she isn’t going to make something with cavallo 🐴! I love saltimbocca. I usually roll them too, although in Roma they are cooked flat. I have not read this book either-it doesn’t sound like it lives up to the movie, which is unusual. Ciao, risatina

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes I had heard at that traditional Roman style saltimbocca are flat but I thought this was a nice method as well. And my God I would never cook horse!! 😄 Even though I was chased and bit by a huge one when I was a little girl, you would think I would bear them some hatred and want to make a casserole of them. But I don’t. 🐴🐎🐴🐎

        Liked by 1 person

  3. How funny! We’ve just had a family viewing of The Godfather I – I don’t think I’d ever seen it before and our son is old enough now to appreciate it. It’s such a work of art! Loved it. Love the look of this, too. Do you think it would work with pork fillet?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure pork fillet would be just fine. You could make this with chicken as well. The first time I ever had this style of dish, it was in Italy and was actually made with chicken which was delicious but since I’m going with a food in books theme, the book specified veal so that is what I made. I think it’ll be fine no matter what you do with it, but let me know how it comes out. 😊


  4. Such a beautiful review, Vanessa. I have to admit that I’m one of those who always thinks the book is better than the film or series, but I usually find an appreciation for them as well. I’ve never read this book, but maybe I will one day.

    The fresh sage looks so lovely. There’s nothing better than fresh sage. Ours comes back beautifully every year. The recipe looks delish too as usual! ❤🧡💛 Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jen! Yes I definitely think in this case the film far outweighed the book. The book was definitely good, just different. And I wholeheartedly agree with you about fresh sage. The only other fresh Herb I think I love as much or more is fresh rosemary.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is an awesome post–I’m so hungry now looking at these photos! 🙂

    The Godfather is one of those instances where I am pretty blatant in saying I prefer the movie 10-1. I am glad I read the book, but I think it is an oddly uneven work while the first 2 movies are just full-out masterpieces.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. I’d have to agree that the film far outweighs the book in quality and merit, but I did enjoy reading it. And I know many people dislike the third film, but I stand by my assessment that it’s better upon repeated viewings and it has a dark charm its own. But yes the first two films are absolute masterpieces.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m not going to be the one to discourage you from watching it again. My suggestion is if you can get your hands on the extended director’s cut, it gives a lot more background that helped fill in a lot of the gaps. That was one of the problems I had with the third film when I originally saw it. And also just remind yourself that if it wasn’t for that movie, Sofia Coppola would not have become the amazing director that she is. And last but not least, feast your eyes on the gorgeousness that is Andy Garcia.😊

        Liked by 1 person

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