Dinner at Tony Napoli's by Edward Izzi book review
book review

Book Review: Dinner at Tony Napoli’s

DINNER AT TONY NAPOLI'S by Edward Izzi is an elegiac novel punctuated with hardboiled humor. Check out what Warren Maxwell has to say in his book review of this indie crime novel.

Dinner at Tony Napoli’s

by Edward Izzi

Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense / Crime

ISBN: 9798399010281

Print Length: 337 pages

Reviewed by Warren Maxwell

An elegiac novel punctuated with hardboiled humor

This is a story about the twisted relationship between criminals, their families, and the inescapable past.

A long association with the mafia finally catches up with Antonio ‘Tony Napoli’ Sorrentino, the legendary owner of Tony Napoli’s Ristorante, when a demolition crew finds four bodies buried in his restaurant’s basement. 

In a jail cell for the first time in his life, 87-year-old Napoli empties his conscience to his nephew Dennis Romanowski, a seasoned detective with the Chicago PD, describing the decades of criminal activity that took place inside the walls of his landmark restaurant. 

“He could go to anyone within the Chicago mob and practically ask for anything that he wanted, and he would probably get it, no questions asked. He kept a respected name within the syndicate. He always managed to successfully walk the fine line between being a legitimate, successful businessman and a respected simulated gangster of sorts.”

Framed by Dennis Romanowski’s struggle to simultaneously help his uncle and remain an honest cop, Dinner at Tony Napoli’s dives into the murky world of mafia ethics, depicting the crime, vengeance, and family loyalty that sustains “casa nostra.” 

Dinner at Tony Napoli’s pulls off an exceptional feat in building its narrative around action that largely occurs off the page. While it doesn’t lack for villains and high drama, the only really unexpected events occur in Tony Napoli’s stories of days gone by. A sense of morbid inevitability infuses the book, whose titular character has already been diagnosed with late stage lung cancer before the first page. 

Edward Izzi is a prodigious storyteller, producing a seemingly endless supply of tall tales and richly drawn portraits of criminals, cops, and hapless innocents caught in their crosshairs. Skipping through time, Izzi strings together Romanowski’s youthful impressions of his uncle with his present role as Napoli’s confidant and closest family member, all the while adding a steady stream of mafia lore into the mix. 

There are gripping stories—such as an instance in which Napoli finds himself mediating between a mafia boss and a corrupt police captain who are both trying to extort money from the same businesses—and less gripping ones, but the result is a tapestry of heinous acts committed by principled men. Although Detective Romanowski’s narration maintains the line between good and evil, hypocrisy and valor are revealed in the most unlikely places.  

A slackness in the pacing and tendency toward repetition causes some of the story’s most propulsive narrative lines to waver and feel less essential. The plot thickens when Little Tony DiMatteo—a cruel mob boss—begins threatening Romanowski against visiting his uncle in jail, but this compelling strand is drowned out by the preponderance of other, less essential plot lines. The sheer density of stories is the novel’s chief success as well as its greatest shortcoming—many blend together, lapse into cliches, and stretch the boundaries of believability. Still, it is important to remember that this is a novel about memory. As such, it brilliantly renders the fears, joys, and regrets of an old man who has lived a checkered life. 

Dinner at Tony Napoli’s follows a Chicago detective as he treads a thin line between the law and loyalty to his family, revealing the infectious logic of criminality.

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