Now it’s confirmed: following a successful first season, Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy will be back for seconds. Having already covered the ‘Big Six’ on a food safari through Italy (Milan, Rome, Naples and the Amalfi Coast, Sicily, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany), where should host - and late-blooming sex-symbol - Stanley Tucci head next?
Below are some suggestions (with added directorial notes) for a ‘Thirsting for Tucci’ second season, just for the fun of it.
Episode 1: Langhe, Piedmont
The alarm goes off at 6 am and we see Tucci emerge from under the covers already dressed in tight-fitting race shorts. Enter Enrico Crippa, chef at the 3-Michelin-starred Piazza Duomo in Alba, who - despite working very long hours - is known to spend his Sunday mornings in gruelling bike rides on the Unesco-approved hills of Langhe, in Piedmont. Afterwards, Tucci reconvenes with Crippa in Piazza Duomo’s vegetable garden, where they pick the ingredients for one of Crippa’s signature dishes: the famous Salad 21,31,41... [sped up for tv purposes].
Lunch is at La Terrazza Da Renza in Castiglione Falletto, a seemingly-simple bar with incredible views over the Barolo vineyards, where matriarch Renza teaches Tucci how to make her outstanding ‘acciughe al rosso’ (anchovies ‘in red’, a less-known - but equally exciting - version of the classic “acciughe al verde”).
After this, maybe Tucci could go to the Ferrero plant to see how Nutella is made? Always been curious.
Episode 2: Abruzzo
In the romantic village of Scanno, we see Tucci walking up a gravel road towards an Ernest Hemingway lookalike (down to the red woolen cap): it’s shepherd and cheesemaker extraordinaire Gregorio Rotolo, who greets Tucci with a manly handshake.
The two go out to pasture together with Rotolo’s massive shepherd dogs (we discover that Tucci is a big dog lover). Once the sheep are all rounded up, Tucci and Rotolo share a celebratory caciocavallo cheese and then a slice of funky Gregoriano (of course Tucci loves smelly cheese).
Time for dessert: Tucci heads to the village of Guardiagrele, nestled in the mountains of Majella, to discover 'sise delle Monache' at Pasticceria Emo Lullo: a lovely sponge cake filled with custard, this local specialty translates as 'nuns’ breasts', except they’re three. At this, Tucci makes a great Schwarzenegger impersonation (from Total Recall).
In Abruzzo, the mountains are never far away from the sea: Tucci ends the day dining with young winemaker Valentina Di Camillo, Tenuta i Fauri, with spaghetti and clams in a simple shack on the beach.
Episode 3: Garda Lake, Lombardy
In Salò, Tucci visits a century-old limonaia - a lemon tree orchard that can be closed off with a roof and windows to protect the trees from the harsh winter cold. We see him strolling with his back turned to the camera, pensively caressing the lemons (the most discerning viewers will note a similarity with the classic Gladiator scene).
In a compelling monologue combining the evils of war, toxic masculinity and the prettiness of the Garda lake, Tucci discusses Italian poet and debauched war hero Gabriele D’Annunzio’s legacy from the grand rooms of Il Vittoriale, part house, part mausoleum.
He then heads to Lido84, just across the road, where Michelin-starred chef Riccardo Camanini serves him his signature dish of cacio & pepe in a pig’s bladder, inspired by the Roman gastronome and writer Apicius, who lived 2000 years ago.
Episode 4: Venetian Lagoon, Veneto
Tucci arrives at Venice railway station and the viewer assumes that’s where he’ll spend the episode - wrong! He only pops by Harry’s Bar, where he challenges the bartender over the perfect Martini - Chris Evans (aka Captain America) will probably side with Tucci - and then he’s on the vaporetto (ferry), headed to the Venetian Lagoon.
First stop, the island of Mazzorbo, where he strolls about the wall-enclosed vineyard of Venissa, always threatened by the proximity to the sea, and then he tastes the delicious local wine. Then he’s off to meet the fishermen who catch moeche, the local soft-shell crabs: he joins them on a tiny boat and learns how to gauge at the touch which crabs are ready to be picked (the process is quite unsettling, but he is heroic).
Next stop, the Sant’Erasmo island, where he learns about the highly-prized baby artichokes, called castraure. At sunset, he visits the beautiful byzantine Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta, on the island of Torcello: we’re not sure that Tucci is religious, but we are left with the feeling he must have a strong sense of the sacred, you know?
Episode 5: Marche
Every city on the coast of Marche makes brodetto di pesce - a very rich fish soup - with a different recipe: a blindfolded Tucci is forced to pick a favourite between Fano and Senigallia, and when he favours the latter the mayor of Fano quietly weeps. Tucci then suggests they all go for a drink together: he is brought to Fano’s historical port, where he learns how to make moretta, a mean concoction, based on coffee and various liqueurs, drunk by fishermen to warm themselves up in the chilly sea air. Spirits are lifted and everyone breaks into songs.
The following day, he visits chef Errico Recanati at the fabulous Michelin-starred Andreina, in Loreto, where he discovers that everything can be cooked with fire, including oysters. He then rides a motorbike from the coast through the gorges of Furlo, where eagles nest, all the way to Acqualagna, known (but not too much) for its white truffles. In Ascoli Piceno, a local nonna teaches Tucci how to make ‘olive all’ascolana’ - olives filled with meat and deep-fried - while repeatedly telling him he’s very good-looking.
Episode 6: Sannio, Campania
In beautiful Benevento, Tucci visits the Cav. Innocenzo Borrillo factory, testing his pearly whites on the award-winning torrone, a classic recipe of honey, egg white, almonds and hazelnuts dating back to the Arab presence in Southern Italy.
After a stroll in the quaint village of Sant’Agata dei Goti, where the locals ask him repeatedly whether he’s friend with Mayor of NYC Bill De Blasio (his family is originally from here), Tucci makes his way through the lush countryside to Kresios, the most avant-garde restaurant in Southern Italy, where he is greeted by chef Giuseppe Iannotti.
Contrary to popular belief, most Italian millennials did not grow up with nonnas making lasagne and tortellini every day, and actually for them, childhood tastes have more to do with processed food: this gave Iannotti the idea for one of his most formidable signature dishes, ‘pastina al formaggio’, a riff on baby food of small pasta with a industrial soft-spread cheese. Iannotti playfully spoon-feeds Tucci, who then looks straight into the camera and says he needs a third season.