(CNN) — Stanley Tucci needs to place you straight about Italy. A land the place the solar shines, the nonnas smile and each plate of spaghetti bolognese comes showered in parmesan cheese? Scratch that.
“I feel in America there are a variety of very particular concepts about what’s ‘Italian,’ and one of many causes I needed to do [my new] present is to dispel a few of these myths about what Italy is,” he tells CNN.
“Individuals think about it is at all times sunny and individuals are taking part in mandolins and consuming pizza and hen parmigiana — which is not even an Italian dish.
“As a result of my dad and mom had been so respectful of their heritage, that cultural id was actually essential to me, and nonetheless is.”
For his newest mission, the actor is taking part in himself, as he strives to place the report straight concerning the nation he is descended from on each side.
Premiering tonight, “Stanley Tucci: Looking For Italy” explores the meals of six of Italy’s finest beloved locations: Naples and the Amalfi Coast, Rome, Bologna, Milan, Tuscany and Sicily.
However whereas all of it revolves across the meals, the Academy Award nominee was eager to get into the historical past, tradition and politics of Italy — and why all these issues are inseparable from what’s in your plate.
Removed from being a land of renaissance cities sandwiched between mountains and the Med, Italy is house to “unimaginable variety” geographically, he says.
He talks concerning the “profound impact” its historical past — Italy is a younger nation, lastly unifying in 1861 — has had on the weight loss plan. “Invasions and faith, politics… every area is so distinctly completely different, not simply the topography, but additionally the meals,” he says.
Likewise, Italy has had a profound impact on him. Born in the US, he is descended from Italian immigrants on each side — each, in truth, from Calabria, the knobby toe of Italy’s boot.
Whereas Tucci grew up in New York State, keen on hamburgers, sizzling canines and Velveeta cheese, he additionally was consuming “this actually superb weight loss plan” of Italian meals at house.
And, aged 12, Italy modified his life.
A private renaissance
Stanley Tucci spend a yr in Italy when he was 12 years previous.
In 1972, Tucci’s father, Stan, a highschool artwork trainer, took a year-long sabbatical to check figure-drawing and sculpture in Florence — and the household got here with him.
Aside from ski journeys to Vermont, “I had by no means gone wherever,” he says.
“I might by no means been on a aircraft, by no means been abroad. So it was unimaginable. It utterly opened my thoughts to the world.”
For a yr, he went to an Italian college whereas his dad studied artwork and his mom, Joan, brushed up on Tuscan cooking. It was an expertise, he says, that “modified every part.”
“To start with, that journey helped inform my aesthetic,” he says. “Two, it made me respect a European way of life and sensibility.
“By the point I graduated faculty, I used to be aching to return once more, and I felt like I used to be meant to be there greater than I used to be speculated to be in America. And so, every time I might, I might return to Italy.”
…And now time for yours
Tucci says People usually misunderstand Italian meals till they go to the nation.
Now that Italy has given him a lot, he is hoping to alter how People view Italy.
“They do not get the intense variety of it — that for those who’re in Sicily you are lower than 100 miles from the coast of Africa, and for those who’re in northern Italy in Alto Adige, individuals are talking Swiss, Italian, German — a mixture of Italian-German and Swiss-German,” he says.
“And that there is not a tomato in sight whenever you go to Lombardy.
“I might like individuals to see that unimaginable variety, and the way it took place — from geography, from invasions, from the influences of the Arab world, from the Spanish, the Normans, the Austrians. It is an unimaginable culinary melting pot.”
Italy’s meals can be notoriously regional, because the collection explores — however so are the individuals, says Tucci.
“Should you ask individuals in Italy, so that you’re Italian? They’re going to say, ‘No, I am Florentine.’ Or, ‘No, I am Piedmontese.’ ‘I am Sicilian.’ The Sicilians actually do not contemplate themselves Italian.
In Minori, a city alongside Italy’s Amalfi Coast, Stanley Tucci samples lemons he calls the very best on this planet. Watch “Stanley Tucci: Looking for Italy” Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
“And the extra you get into the meals, the extra you understand how completely different it’s, not simply from area to area or metropolis to metropolis, however from home to deal with, or restaurant to restaurant.
“Individuals contemplate parmesan the king of cheeses, however individuals in Tuscany will say, ‘No, no, it is a horrible cheese. The one you need is Tuscan pecorino.’ I bear in mind having a dialog with a man in a deli in Pienza [known for its pecorino cheese] who mentioned, ‘We do not even carry parmesan.’ It is unimaginable.”
The distinction with the place he grew up is large.
“Somebody mentioned to me, ‘The factor about Italy is, you may journey 10 miles and get a totally completely different menu; in America, you drive 300 miles, you are going to get precisely the identical factor.”
Coming collectively underneath Covid
Tucci and spouse Felicity dig in to a plate of pasta on the Amalfi Coast.
The Covid-19 pandemic, he reckons, is without doubt one of the few instances Italians have felt Italian, slightly than regional.
“They actually got here collectively in a manner that actually America did not, or England for that matter,” he says.
“You felt that there was an actual sturdy sense of togetherness, which there hadn’t been for a very long time.”
The present filmed each earlier than the pandemic and after the primary wave, in summer season 2020. He says he discovered the Italians “drained, beleaguered by the entire thing, however unimaginable, open and beneficiant.”
As soon as the borders reopen, they’re going to want tourism “desperately.” However he suggests, tempting as it’s to go to the same old large metropolis suspects, “it will assist an enormous quantity for those who spend [your money] in smaller cities and smaller institutions.”
And whereas People won’t expect the meals that awaits them — within the US, he says, as he explored in his movie, “Large Evening”, “They anticipate meatballs to return with the spaghetti, they like enormous quantities of cheese, a lot of sauce” — he thinks they’re pleasantly shocked.
“Nearly each single individual I speak to who’s American, they are saying, ‘Oh my god, the meals in Italy is unimaginable.’ Which suggests they get it. They perceive.”
The final word Italy
Stanley Tucci visits one among Italy’s biggest cheese makers to see him work his magic with mozzarella. Watch “Stanley Tucci: Looking for Italy” Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Tucci has been getting “it” for nearly 50 years now, however though he is traveled extensively across the nation, one place he hasn’t returned to is the land of his ancestors — he was final in Calabria when he was a baby.
As an alternative, he is most taken by the central areas — Tuscany, Umbria and the Marche — in addition to Rome and Piedmont. He additionally has a gentle spot for Lombardy — “Oh my god,” he yelps of the risotto he tried in episode 4 of the collection — and he says that, of Italy’s 20 areas, Lombardy can be the one he’d most fortunately stay in.
“I just like the local weather, I feel Lake Como is without doubt one of the most lovely locations on this planet, I just like the meals of that space rather a lot, and I like with the ability to expertise winter, which you do not actually expertise in London [where Tucci lives].”
So, would he ever make the leap and transfer?
“No,” he says with out hesitation. “Too many Italians.”
As solely somebody from Calabria would dare say.