REVIEW: Move over Gordon Ramsay, Phil Rosenthal and Action Bronson, a successor to the late, great Anthony Bourdain could finally have been found.
Stanley Tucci is perhaps best as a scene thief in films like. known The devil Wears Prada, The hunger Games Quadrilogy and The lovely bones, but he turns out to be a learned and entertaining host of Stanley Tucci: In search of Italy (which will debut new episodes on Sky TV’s CNN on Sunday evenings at 11pm on June 20).
In the six-part series, the actor explores his Italian heritage while celebrating the country’s regional culinary variations. Rome, Bologna, Tuscany, Sicily and Milan are on the menu, with Naples and the Amalfi Coast as its first stop.
Tucci reveals that the opening episode was filmed “during a brief moment of normalcy between Italian lockdowns” and sniffs the unofficial capital of the somewhat subdued “great chaos” of the south.
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A regular visitor over the years, he believes the much maligned city (thanks to the seemingly ubiquitous twin threats of Vesuvius and Camorra) offers the “energy of New York and the somber elegance of New Orleans”.
While he strolls through the cobbled streets and back alleys and looks radiant either in a suit and tie or more relaxed in a crisp looking shirt with an open collar, Tucci’s soft tones spoil us with stories about the area or his own personal story as he goes to his next meal. Because as fascinating as Naples’ earlier involvement with volcanoes, cholera and organized crime is, everything here revolves around food – and when it comes to delicious delicacies and hungry food porn, Search for Italy certainly does not disappoint.
From a hole in the wall serving authentic Napoli pizza (a deep-fried calzone-style creation filled with pork, basil and ricotta) to buffalo mozzarella “farmers” and growers of the famous San Marzano tomatoes (New Zealand is named and shamed as one of the places where imitations with that name are sold – the real thing must be grown on soils that “have been improved by gifts from Vesuvius”), Tucci tries everything while speaking his seemingly immaculate Italian and his Innate uses charisma to get the best out of his interlocutors.
Everyone seems to enjoy their encounters and the relationship that each meeting creates feels extremely real. “You changed my life,” he tells Fernanda, the pizza seller. “You’re getting fat,” she warns and laughs hysterically.
Meeting with the local police chief reveals not only their approach to fighting crime, but also the Napoli tradition of paying for an extra coffee for someone who may not be able to afford it. A visit to the island of Ischia takes Tucci on a rabbit hunt so he can try a top dish at a favorite restaurant, while Mrs. Felicity Blunt (actor Emily’s sister) comes with him to the Amalfi Coast to see what a zucchini pasta dish is like years of experimentation at home is actually done. It turned out not as expected.
This is symptomatic of the day you are stuck in the eatery with an unprecedented downpour – you and the crew are the only customers for a fully equipped kitchen of chefs who are determined to prepare a celebratory meal anyway.
A show that reminds us that treasures can be found in the most unexpected places. You have to find this fabulous series that is on a Sky channel at worse times. But believe me, it’s worth the effort.
Stanley Tucci: In search of Italy makes its New Zealand debut on Sunday June 20th at 11pm on CNN (Sky Channel 87).