Culture Trips

Stanley Tucci: the flirty hero of foodie TV you need in your life | Food TV

You may not realise this at the moment, but your heart has been crying out for a series like Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy. If you saw last night’s first episode, tucked away on CNN International, you will already be aware of this. If you didn’t, stop what you’re doing and seek it out. It’s less a TV show and more an hour of full-body relaxation. By the time the episode ended, I felt as if my entire brain had been taken out and massaged in olive oil.

Although the title suggests a different series, in which a beloved actor receives a concussion then forlornly attempts to navigate Google Maps, this is actually a culinary travelogue. Tucci visits a different Italian region in every episode and contentedly samples its food. It is a formula you will have seen thousands of times before, albeit with a couple of key differences.

The first is its timing. Searching for Italy was filmed last summer, in that near-mythical lull when Covid eased off and people were briefly allowed out of their houses again. As such, the whole series is perpetually dazzled by the possibility of travel. Every restaurant, every mountain, every cobbled street is captured with a sense of awestruck wonder, as if it were a newly rediscovered treasure. That it’s being broadcast now, when we’re still not allowed to go abroad, only exacerbates this sensation. If you have missed European travel even slightly over these last 15 months, you’re going to feel this show in your bones.

The second difference is its host. Shows like this tend to have a limited range. There are only so many times you can look at a tomato farm, or visit a lemon grove. As such, they heavily rely on the personality of whoever is in front of the camera. Anthony Bourdain’s shows were ragged with the spirit of adventure, for instance, while Phil Rosenthal’s are like watching a sugar-crazed toddler go wild in a supermarket. But Searching for Italy has Stanley Tucci, for crying out loud, a man who cannot help but radiate elegant calm from his pores.

Tucci, by all accounts, has had a smashing pandemic. Early on he became a breakout viral star, thanks to videos of him making cocktails in his kitchen. There was something about his unflappable presentation – teasing yet authoritative – that not only cut through the chaos of those initial months, but inspired wave after wave of ferocious lust in just about everyone who watched it. And then, if that wasn’t enough, last May he wrote an hour-by-hour breakdown of lockdown life for The Atlantic that acted as perhaps the first convincing summary of family life in lockdown. Had Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy been made before lockdown, if it had been the bloke with the wig from The Hunger Games eating risotto on a bench, it would have been fine. But this is the new and improved sexy post-viral Tucci. As such, his show is unmissable.

Stanley Tucci at a pizzeria in Naples
A big slice of charm … Stanley Tucci at a pizzeria in Naples. Photograph: CNN

In Searching for Italy, Tucci basically makes it his business to charm the pants off every Italian he meets, in Italian. Episode one takes place in Naples, and early on he visits a tiny, century-old hole-in-the-wall pizzeria. He takes a bite of his calzone, then gazes at the middle-aged woman who made it for him. “Fernanda,” he purrs, “You’ve changed my life.” “You’ll get fat!” she barks back flirtatiously, fully ready to leave her family for this stylish new stranger.

Tucci does this to everyone: chefs, farmers, old friends. They all fall under the powerful Tucci hypnodazzle. The purring is a constant, too. At one point, a violent hailstorm hits and the camera crew rush inside to save their equipment. At this point, Tucci became the only person I have ever heard to purr the phrase “Holy shit”.

This is the sort of show he was made to host. Tucci knows food, and he knows Italy, and he carries himself with such assurance that you sort of want him to give up acting and dedicate himself to this full-time. There’s already a sense that he could be the next Bourdain, so he’ll probably be allowed to make as many shows like this as he wants. Whether that happens or not is another matter. My feeling is that this works so well because Tucci is completely aligned with Italy, and a sequel called something like Stanley Tucci: Searching for Belgium would lose its charm. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy is what we’ve got, and we’d be silly not to savour every morsel.

What's your reaction?

Excited
0
Happy
0
In Love
0
Not Sure
0
Silly
0

You may also like

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *