(CNN) — Stanley Tucci wants to put you straight about Italy. A land the place the sunlight shines, the nonnas smile and every plate of spaghetti bolognese comes showered in parmesan cheese? Scratch that.
“I assume in The us there are a good deal of extremely distinct suggestions about what is ‘Italian,’ and one particular of the causes I required to do [my new] show is to dispel some of people myths about what Italy is,” he tells CNN.
“Persons picture it can be constantly sunny and people are playing mandolins and taking in pizza and chicken parmigiana — which just isn’t even an Italian dish.
“For the reason that my mothers and fathers had been so respectful of their heritage, that cultural id was truly vital to me, and still is.”
For his most current undertaking, the actor is actively playing himself, as he strives to put the history straight about the country he is descended from on both of those sides.
Premiering tonight, “Stanley Tucci: Searching For Italy” explores the food items of 6 of Italy’s finest loved spots: Naples and the Amalfi Coast, Rome, Bologna, Milan, Tuscany and Sicily.
But although it all revolves close to the food stuff, the Academy Award nominee was eager to get into the historical past, society and politics of Italy — and why all these points are inseparable from what’s on your plate.
Significantly from becoming a land of renaissance cities sandwiched between mountains and the Med, Italy is household to “outstanding variety” geographically, he suggests.
He talks about the “profound result” its background — Italy is a younger nation, last but not least unifying in 1861 — has had on the diet plan. “Invasions and faith, politics… every single area is so distinctly different, not just the topography, but also the food stuff,” he claims.
Likewise, Italy has had a profound result on him. Born in the United States, he is descended from Italian immigrants on each sides — the two, in point, from Calabria, the knobby toe of Italy’s boot.
Though Tucci grew up in New York Point out, partial to hamburgers, very hot canine and Velveeta cheese, he also was feeding on “this truly wonderful eating plan” of Italian food stuff at property.
And, aged 12, Italy adjusted his existence.
A individual renaissance
Stanley Tucci spent a year in Italy when he was 12 decades old.
In 1972, Tucci’s father, Stan, a significant college artwork trainer, took a calendar year-long sabbatical to research determine-drawing and sculpture in Florence — and the household arrived with him.
Apart from ski excursions to Vermont, “I had never gone anyplace,” he states.
“I would by no means been on a airplane, never ever been overseas. So it was remarkable. It absolutely opened my mind to the planet.”
For a year, he went to an Italian college although his dad analyzed artwork and his mom, Joan, brushed up on Tuscan cooking. It was an experience, he claims, that “altered almost everything.”
“1st of all, that trip assisted inform my aesthetic,” he says. “Two, it built me respect a European way of life and sensibility.
“By the time I graduated college, I was aching to go back all over again, and I felt like I was meant to be there much more than I was supposed to be in America. And so, every time I could, I would go again to Italy.”
…And now time for yours
Tucci says People usually misunderstand Italian foods till they visit the region.
Now that Italy has presented him so considerably, he’s hoping to modify how Us citizens view Italy.
“They you should not get the severe diversity of it — that if you’re in Sicily you’re much less than 100 miles from the coastline of Africa, and if you are in northern Italy in Alto Adige, men and women are speaking Swiss, Italian, German — a mix of Italian-German and Swiss-German,” he states.
“And that there is not a tomato in sight when you go to Lombardy.
“I might like people today to see that incredible variety, and how it arrived about — from geography, from invasions, from the influences of the Arab earth, from the Spanish, the Normans, the Austrians. It’s an incredible culinary melting pot.”
Italy’s food stuff is also notoriously regional, as the sequence explores — but so are the folks, states Tucci.
“If you inquire men and women in Italy, so you’re Italian? They will say, ‘No, I’m Florentine.’ Or, ‘No, I’m Piedmontese.’ ‘I’m Sicilian.’ The Sicilians genuinely you should not consider by themselves Italian.
In Minori, a town along Italy’s Amalfi Coastline, Stanley Tucci samples lemons he phone calls the finest in the world. View “Stanley Tucci: Browsing for Italy” Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
“And the more you get into the food items, the more you know how various it is, not just from location to region or city to town, but from household to residence, or restaurant to restaurant.
“People today take into consideration parmesan the king of cheeses, but men and women in Tuscany will say, ‘No, no, it truly is a terrible cheese. The one particular you want is Tuscan pecorino.’ I try to remember acquiring a discussion with a guy in a deli in Pienza [known for its pecorino cheese] who claimed, ‘We do not even carry parmesan.’ It really is remarkable.”
The change with exactly where he grew up is large.
“Somebody said to me, ‘The point about Italy is, you can travel 10 miles and get a completely distinctive menu in The usa, you push 300 miles, you’re likely to get specifically the identical factor.”
Coming with each other under Covid
Tucci and spouse Felicity dig in to a plate of pasta on the Amalfi Coast.
The Covid-19 pandemic, he reckons, is one of the couple times Italians have felt Italian, fairly than regional.
“They actually came alongside one another in a way that undoubtedly The usa failed to, or England for that subject,” he says.
“You felt that there was a serious powerful perception of togetherness, which there hadn’t been for a extended time.”
The clearly show filmed both equally prior to the pandemic and right after the first wave, in summer time 2020. He states he uncovered the Italians “weary, beleaguered by the total point, but unbelievable, open up and generous.”
After the borders reopen, they’ll require tourism “desperately.” But he suggests, tempting as it is to go to the regular huge town suspects, “it will support a massive total if you spend [your money] in smaller towns and scaled-down institutions.”
And even though Us residents may not be expecting the meals that awaits them — in the US, he suggests, as he explored in his movie, “Massive Night”, “They count on meatballs to appear with the spaghetti, they like massive quantities of cheese, loads of sauce” — he thinks they are pleasantly surprised.
“Practically just about every single individual I talk to who’s American, they say, ‘Oh my god, the foods in Italy is outstanding.’ Which indicates they get it. They comprehend.”
The final Italy
Stanley Tucci visits one particular of Italy’s biggest cheese makers to see him function his magic with mozzarella. Watch “Stanley Tucci: Exploring for Italy” Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Tucci has been getting “it” for almost 50 years now, but even though he is traveled thoroughly around the nation, just one put he hasn’t returned to is the land of his ancestors — he was last in Calabria when he was a baby.
Alternatively, he’s most taken by the central areas — Tuscany, Umbria and the Marche — as properly as Rome and Piedmont. He also has a tender place for Lombardy — “Oh my god,” he yelps of the risotto he tried in episode 4 of the sequence — and he states that, of Italy’s 20 regions, Lombardy would be the 1 he’d most fortunately dwell in.
“I like the local weather, I believe Lake Como is 1 of the most gorgeous locations in the world, I like the food items of that space a lot, and I like staying equipped to experience winter, which you do not truly expertise in London [where Tucci lives].”
So, would he ever consider the plunge and shift?
“No,” he states with out hesitation. “Way too lots of Italians.”
As only another person from Calabria would dare say.