"Pasta Mike" Explores Food, Loss & Male Friendship
Mike O’Shea was everything to Andy Cotto—a lifelong friend of over forty years, a sense of security, and even an aspect of identity. Mike was his lifelong compatriot in culinary adventure, as both shared a deep love of connecting over food, especially in Andy’s childhood kitchen where Mike would eat pasta by the platefuls. But after Leukemia took Mike’s life, this all changed. In Pasta Mike, a novella about male friendship, much of the fiction reflects the very real life of Mike O’Shea and his relationship with author Andrew Cotto.
Though this is Cotto’s seventh book, the novella is the author at his most personal. While the hometown setting and circumstances differ, the journey mirrors life. “This is definitely the story of me and Mike. I didn’t change our names, nor the depth of our friendship and how his loss impacted me.” Food is a recurring focus in both Cotto’s fiction and journalism, and plays an important role in Pasta Mike, whose title references Mike’s love of Cotto’s family cuisine. “The two of us shared so many memorable meals together, and I’d give anything to break bread with him and drink too much wine just one more time.” One especially memorable meal was a lush birthday celebrated at Per Se in New York City, a feast after which Mike inhaled three hotdogs from a stand in Columbus Circle.
And when asked where Cotto would have this meal with Mike if possible: “Definitely not Per Se! We’ve had great meals all around America, also in Italy and Ireland, but our experiences with food began in our homes (my home, more specifically, as he’s Irish and I’m Italian), so I’d love to have him over to my house for a wine-soaked Sunday lunch that would last all day.”
For Cotto, centering male friendship was an important task of this work. “I also don’t think men recognize enough the value of friendship in our lives. These subjects just don’t get the amount of attention they warrant. I think this is particularly true as we enter middle age and become more vulnerable.”
He also had a much more specific audience in mind: “I wanted to create a tribute to Mike for his family and the legions of people who consider themselves lucky to have known him. Mike's character and his capacity for love are things that deserve formal recognition.” On sale now, Pasta Mike: A Story of Friendship and Loss ($16.99) is a heartfelt tribute to a larger-than-life friend, and a reflection on the many ways we say goodbye.