Actor Robert Funaro is cooking up his mom’s recipes and spilling the beans about his time on ‘The Sopranos’ in his new virtual cooking classes.
Like many New Yorkers, Funaro — who played Eugene Pontecorvo, one of the ill-fated members of Tony Soprano’s crew — found himself cooking more during the pandemic. He busted out his mother Anna’s Italian recipes and began to cook them more seriously and post them on Instagram. Thanks to his new Instagram presence, Funaro was able to link up with Andrew Jedlicka, Founder & CEO of the Andrew Frank Group, who was already working with his friend and fellow Soprano actor, Vincent Pastore (who played Sal Bonpensiero), who has his own jarred sauce on the market.
“I met Andrew through Instagram. Andrew commented that the recipes looked fantastic and we should do something together. I thought, he already works with Vinnie Pastore, why not us work together?” said Funaro.
After doing some research, the two landed on ChefsFeed, which hosts interactive classes virtually for those who are looking to learn how to cook. For Funaro, Chefsfeed was the ideal choice because it’s easy to use and they help make the classes more seen by the public.
Funaro hosted his first class by teaching his mom’s Sunday Sauce, a classic meat sauce that Funaro grew up eating. Funaro wanted to start his classes by teaching some of his favorite recipes that he enjoyed eating.
“We started with my mom’s Sunday sauce — some people call it sauce, some people call it gravy, I just eat it,” said Funaro. “So that’s my favorite recipe in all the world. I wanted to start with the ones that I truly loved, that I really love to consume and cook with love.”
On Feb. 25, Funaro is hosting a class on his mother’s Blue Claw Crab/Lobster Sauce. Another one of Funaro’s favorites, this recipe was more special because it wasn’t eaten very often and, when it was made with lobster, was usually reserved for holidays. However, with the great accessibility to crab, Funaro thinks this sauce can be a great addition to any home cook’s repertoire.
“A lot of Italians make the seven fishes, my family doesn’t do that necessarily but we make the lobster sauce and bake a few lobsters in the oven. The lobster sauce is special, you don’t have that all the time,” said Funaro. “There seems to be more accessibility to purchase crabs now, you can find blue claw crabs at Stop & Shop. A lot of stores carry vacuum-sealed products that are good quality that weren’t available when I was growing up. You had to wait until the summertime in July and catch the crabs but now you can have them all year round and they’re not too expensive. It makes a great sauce.”
During each class, Funaro gets down to the basics of each recipe, but also gives students a look at his experiences on “The Sopranos” and his involvement in other works such as “The Irishman,” “Ray Donovan,” and “American Gangster.”
“We’re going to talk about the crazy people in my family in relation to the recipe, the dos and don’ts when making it, but then we’re going to discuss ‘The Sopranos’ and my career,” said Funaro. “We’ll talk about stuff that happened on set, and people can ask questions. If I can answer them, I’ll answer them. I had a very good relationship with James Gandolfini [Tony Soprano], I think he was very instrumental in my career. Maybe we’ll talk about the films I’ve been on, too. It’s interactive and it’s a lot of fun.”
In future classes, Funaro will dive deeper into his family’s history and pull out some more of his favorite recipes, including some non-Italian ones such as his uncle Nick Fury’s (nicknamed for “The Avengers” character) Korean Chicken, as well as recipes that could easily feed big families back in the day. For Funaro, it’s important for him to share his family’s legacy through the food they make.
“It has a lot more value than a monetary value, but at the same time to put some sort of price on it is important, too. To share the legacies of mom’s recipes, they are any kind of good recipe that you want to keep in your credenza, as we say in Italian,” said Funaro. “It’s important to share the recipes with the world and I think people will share it with their families. It’s concentric, food is certainly concentric.”
Tickets for the Blue Crab Sauce class are still available for $50. To purchase tickets for the class, visit chefsfeed.com.