July 29 is National Lasagna Day.
Sometimes I hear the name of a food immediately associate it with a classic sitcom episode. Other times, as in the case of lasagna, it’s a bit more difficult to come up with an idea for a post. But there has to be an episode of some show that had lasagna in it, right?
My first thought was the short-lived 1984 sitcom Mama Malone. I never watched a single episode, but the promos for it ran incessantly, so I remember that it was about an Italian widow who lived in Brooklyn and had a cooking show. Mama Malone was always cooking up something! I don’t remember if she was cooking up laughter or love, but certainly she must have cooked some lasagna too. Let’s see if the opening credits shed any light on it:
Mama Malone opening credits (1984)
Take a half a cup of sweetness and a half a cup of spice and add some caring,
To a little pinch of patience and a pound of good advice put in some sharing.
Then sauté a little wisdom and combine it with the sharpness of a scallion.
Take some temper and some tenderness and stir it ’til it’s definitely Italian!
And o-oh, there’s Mama Malone!
She’s the best-a-baker, honey caker, no mistake-a, pasta maker, pepper shaker, taste-a-taker, wide-as-an-acre mama in the world!
Well, I didn’t hear an explicit mention of lasagna in there. However, a review of the series in The New York Times says, “As Mama prepares lasagna con amore for her viewers, her family and friends wander in and out of the apartment with their assorted crises and anxieties, giving the cooking lesson a twist that is offbeat, to say the least.” The New York Times is a reputable source, but seeing is believing, and I want to see proof of lasagna—a photo or video will suffice.
Lila Kaye, who played Mama Malone, was actually English, not Italian. But I can think of a Kaye who is Italian: Kaye Ballard! And in Season 3 of The Doris Day Show, Ballard played Angie Pallucci, who owned an Italian restaurant with her onscreen husband, played by Bernie Kopell (of Get Smart and Love Boat fame). Surely they must have served lasagna in that restaurant. Or did they? Below are some clips from a restaurant-centered episode, “Dinner for One.”
Clips from The Doris Day Show, “Dinner for One” (October 5, 1970)
If you watched that video, you heard them talk about spaghetti, antipasto, veal piccata, ravioli, chicken marsala, veal cacciatore, cracked crab, and garlic bread, but not once do they mention lasagna as being on the menu. WTF?
So I tried to think of another Italian restaurant on a TV show, and I remembered that Laverne’s father, Frank DeFazio, owned the Pizza Bowl on Laverne & Shirley. Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch to think they’d serve lasagna in a bowling alley pizza joint, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to do some googling and see what I could find.
And while I didn’t find lasagna at the Pizza Bowl, I did find lasagna elsewhere on the show: Mrs. Lasagna, a character in the Season 3 episode, “Take My Plants, Please.” Per IMDb, “The girls take up the odd job of selling house plants door to door after getting laid off from Shotz. They run into an odd assortment of bizarre tenants who have varied reactions to their sales pitch.” One of the bizarre tenants is listed in the credits as Mrs. Lasagna, played by Janice Carroll. And here’s her picture. I watched the entire mediocre episode, and she was only on for a few seconds and was never mentioned by name—but at least I finally found some kind of Lasagna.