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Big Night (1996)

R  |   |  Drama  |  20 September 1996 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 12,209 users   Metascore: 80/100
Reviews: 81 user | 51 critic | 23 from

A failing Italian restaurant run by two brothers gambles on one special night to try to save the business.

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Larry Block ...
Man in Restaurant
Woman in Restaurant
Andre Belgrader ...
Stash (as Andrei Belgrader)
Loan Officer
Pasquale Cajano ...
Alberto N. Pisani
Woman Singer


Primo and Secondo are two brothers who have emigrated from Italy to open an Italian restaurant in America. Primo is the irascible and gifted chef, brilliant in his culinary genius, but determined not to squander his talent on making the routine dishes that customers expect. Secondo is the smooth front-man, trying to keep the restaurant financially afloat, despite few patrons other than a poor artist who pays with his paintings. The owner of the nearby Pascal's restaurant, enormously successful (despite its mediocre fare), offers a solution - he will call his friend, a big-time jazz musician, to play a special benefit at their restaurant. Primo begins to prepare his masterpiece, a feast of a lifetime, for the brothers' big night... Written by Tad Dibbern <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


In love and life, one big night can change everything.



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

20 September 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Big Night - italialainen ilta  »

Box Office


$4,100,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$185,942 (USA) (20 September 1996)


ITL 763,505,000 (Italy) (11 April 1997)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Primo, Tony Shalhoub's name in Big Night, translates as "First". Secondo, 'Stanley Tucci''s character, translates as "Second". This relates to their birth order in the film. It is briefly referenced in the Cadillac scene when Secondo meets Bob (the car salesman played by Campbell Scott). (Additionally, Shalhoub's character in The Impostors (1998) was named Voltri, First Mate - a possible reference to Primo.) See more »


The pianist in Pascal's restaurant is playing an electronic keyboard, the likes of which would not be invented for another twenty years or more. See more »


[first lines]
Primo: [offers a taste asking opinion in Italian]
Secondo: What?
Primo: More Salt?
Secondo: No.
[continues chopping]
Primo: Not too fine, eh? Sometimes you cut it too fine, then all you taste is the garlic!
See more »


Referenced in Jeopardy!: Episode #28.176 (2012) See more »


Il Pescivendolo
Written and Performed by Matteo Salvatore
See more »

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User Reviews

Cinematic poetry
30 September 2009 | by (Los Angeles, Calif.) – See all my reviews

This movie is like a good poem: it doesn't all make sense, but you love experiencing it, and after you're done you keep thinking about it for days and days.

"Big Night" tells of two Italian brothers trying to succeed as restaurateurs in the 1960s. The bulk of the movie revolves a single "big night" in which they unleash their finest dishes in a culinary extravaganza.

The leads, Shalhoub and Tucci, are joined by Ian Holm (depicting a rival restaurateur) in a really memorable set of performances. All the minor supporting characters are equally endearing and real-to-life. There is a lot of attention given to the food and to its preparation, and the cinematography used to actually depict the meal (and the music superimposed onto it) is fantastically enjoyable. It's like the dishes are actors or characters in the play! The movie's final scene is perhaps deserving of the all-time hall of fame. It plays out over several minutes of complete wordless silence, yet it makes such a lasting impression. Ultimately the scene shows that the movie is not about the food or the striving for success, but about the relationship between these brothers, and that the relationship will outlast any of the trials they are undergoing, no matter how severe.

If you insist on a tidy ending that resolves all the issues, don't look here because the ending is completely hanging. Yet somehow I found it satisfying nevertheless. You'll find yourself recalling scenes and lines from the film for weeks to come.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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