Ciao, Italy! Award-winning American actor, director, producer and author Stanley Tucci is thrilled to return on May 1 to present the highly anticipated second season of In search of Italy on CNN (9 p.m. ET/PT). With his strong Italian heritage and unbridled love of food, Tucci’s four fun new episodes dive dramatically into Venice, Umbria, Piedmont and (surprise!) London, where he’s lived for a decade. Why is the capital of England included in this series? London is home to an energetic and inventive Italian food scene and is home to (surprise again!) over 400,000 Italians. Get ready for a gastronomic gallop. Here is the promo/trailer.
Beautifully filmed, In search of Italy spotlights Tucci as he travels between countryside and city, exploring the flavors, ingredients and cooking techniques of each distinct destination. Tucci’s illuminating moments with stellar chefs, winemakers, hunters, farmers, cheese makers, historians, journalists, food writers, TV stars and other personalities are the golden threads that weave captivating stories. They are joyful journeys, radiating warmth and humor, filled with laughter and friendship, tradition and learning, and plenty of food and drink.
“There is an Italian proverb,” says Tucci. “At the table, you never get old, especially when surrounded by incredible history, people and timeless food.” In search of Italy brings its best spirit to the table yet again this year. Sit down, raise your glass and toast: Greet!
Venice: a Magnificent Fusion
“It’s the fifth century,” begins Tucci’s narration. “You are an urban planner who launches an idea: a city on the sea, built on stilts, canals instead of streets. You can only get there by boat. He pauses to let the result sink in. “And amazingly, they built it! In a millennium, Venice becomes the center of a global commercial empire: silks, spices, ideas and money. A lot. Venetians live between land and water. It shaped their character. Salty, wise and ingenious… The sea brought the outside world to the Venetians and fed their appetites. So many different cultures, just in one bowl.
Clues to episode highlights: gondoliers, tall buildings, piazzas, towers, bacaros (wine bars), a romantic atmosphere as a bonus. Famous Harry’s Bar (with a martini named after Ernest Hemingway). The centuries-old Rialto fish market. Omnipresent, coveted cichetti (small plates of appetizers masterpieces). Classic street food, like Scartosso de Pesse (fish leaf). Traditional sardinian in saor (sardines preserved in vinegar – deliciously sweet, salty and sour at the same time). Venetian meals are memorable: Duck stewblack ink Risotto with cuttlefish. And Dorona grape wine. Cheers!
“Venetians repeatedly make something beautiful out of the unfathomable and the impossible,” says Tucci. “They are a resilient people in the face of all obstacles.”
Umbria: Pleasures of the Earth
Umbria is “the green heart of Italy. Not a jealous heart, but a fertile one,” Tucci almost purrs. He begins this show by driving in the middle of a green field. “I trace a route through the ancient forests and the misty mountains of Umbria. This is Italy before the Romans. A place where families live close to the land. A land of holy legends, impossibly high hilltop towns and rustic cuisine.
Episode Highlight Clues: A gripping boar hunt. Applause for the forward-thinking farm with over 1,000 varieties of organic fruits and vegetables. The curious maze of tunnels beneath the cathedral in the stunning hilltop town of Orvieto. The most famous city in Umbria: Assisi, the birthplace of Saint Francis, and its frescoes by Giotto in the Basilica. Prodigious black truffles. Salami and sausage secrets. Stuffed porchetta. Delicious vacuum-cooked pigeon. Eggplant caviar. Baci Perugina, fine chocolates that Americans love to give on Valentine’s Day. Gourmet red wine.
“The Umbrians eat a lot of meat, especially pork. I really like. Huge quantities,” Tucci points out about this refuge for carnivores. “Their landlocked homeland is right in the middle of the country. Bordered to the west by its more glamorous neighbour, Tuscany, it is often overlooked. But while the landscape here is similar, the culture is very different, less fancy, if you will, and I hear the locals like it that way.
Piedmont: the majesty of the mountains
“If you put on your skis in the Alps and descend directly into the mountains, you will find yourself in the fertile plains of Piedmont. This region, nestled in northern Italy, is a marvel, offering some of the best produce in the world – from exquisite white truffles to rice for risotto and the finest wines,” says Tucci. “People here are driven by passion and ambition. They just don’t like to shout about it. On the border with France, having a neighbor as large as life has left its mark. French-inspired ideas, customs and cuisine are part of the fabric of Piedmont.
Clues to episode highlights: In the venerable town of Vercelli, on the Sesia river between Milan and Turin, a Michelin-starred restaurant chef brainstorms rice dishes with imaginative twists, transforming an unassuming grain into works of culinary art. Italian coffee has a revered reputation; it is taken to greater heights in Turin, which perfects bicerin (a drink of layered espresso, hot chocolate and heavy whipped cream). The Alba white truffle is unequaled in prestige and price; Tucci attends an auction where a single truffle sells for over $100,000. Piedmont’s enthusiasm for the slow food movement encourages local specialties rather than mass-produced fast food. Moreover, the forbidden ritual of family and friends dining together is a very dear bond. Savor the savory fontana cheese with hazelnuts, as well as Barolo, made with Nebbiolo grapes, considered by many to be Italy’s finest wine.
“You have to expect the unexpected. And approach things a little differently, to dig up [Piedmont’s] real treasures,” adds Tucci.
London: An Italian Celebration
“It’s one of my favorite places in the world,” enthused Tucci. “There are more Italians here than in Bologna or Pisa. The ancient Romans saw it as their last frontier. It is a place built on tradition and innovation. And whatever you’ve heard, the food here is amazing. His adoration of London is unabashed. “In my mind, no city…can match its elegance and charm.”
Episode Highlight Clues: Feel the excitement of the myriad gifts from this global city. The oldest Italian delicatessen in England. A food hall installed inside an old church. Chefs who honor the art of home cooking. Hearty peasant dishes that have turned into gastronomic hits. Freshly made pasta galore. Close your eyes and summon the following set in front of you: Spicy Lemon tagliolini London arugula (similar to arugula), agnolini with brodo (packets of pasta stuffed with broth), San Daniele prosciutto and super creamy burrata cheese made from English cows’ milk.
“There are over 3,000 Italian restaurants and delis in London today. But this British love affair with Italian cuisine didn’t just happen overnight,” notes Tucci. “One man’s desire for the food of his homeland ended up forever changing the culinary landscape of this city. Gennaro Contaldo’s simple and authentic approach to Italian cuisine has sparked a gastronomic revolution. One by one, a dozen, then hundreds and thousands of London-based chefs now rejoice in the devotion to Italian cuisine. Lucky for Tucci, and lucky for us, In search of Italy keep on going.
For more Tucci affectedhis last book Taste: my life through food (Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster) offers intimate, insightful and inviting stories about a fascinating life, packed with recipes. Also check out her Instagram focused on food and travel.