When the first season of Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy landed on CNN in February, 2021, it fell at the right time and place. A year into the pandemic, we were all a little travel-starved sitting on our couches and the Hollywood actor’s six-part documentary series on Italy’s regional cuisines offered the perfect blend of decadent dishes and verdant landscapes to both satiate our hunger and leave us wanting seconds.
This past May, we got our wish as four new episodes hit our screens. As host and producer of the Emmy Award-winning series, Tucci is following in the footsteps of the legendary Anthony Bourdain, whose absence continues to be felt by those of us who want a heaping helping of history and culture with our meat and potatoes. Although no Bourdain (I mean, who is?), Tucci has charisma in abundance and it’s compelling to watch him make his way across his family’s country of origin, sampling dishes both old and new. “What’s interesting about Italy to me is that you have these ancient culinary traditions,” Tucci says, “but then you have these chefs who are taking them and flipping them on their heads.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Tucci has also been sharing his love of cooking and cocktails on Instagram, either by mixing the perfect Negroni for his wife or demonstrating how to make Spaghetti con zucchine alla Nerano, the pasta dish Tucci says changed his life. All this has further cemented the 61-year-old actor’s tastemaker status, landing him gigs as global brand ambassador for Tanqueray No. Ten and judge for the Diageo World Class Canada competition, held in Montreal earlier this spring. (Toronto’s Massimo Zitti won first place and will go on to represent Canada in the world finals in Australia this September).
Fans will be happy to learn that Tucci will be heading out to shoot four more regions of Italy soon, including stops in Puglia and Sardinia. We asked him about some of his other summer plans.
Favourite summer cocktails
I particularly like a vodka tonic or a gin and tonic with a slice of cucumber, or maybe some mint. It’s so refreshing. I also like to drink Pimm’s, but it’s hard. You can’t have too many [laughs].
Best companion to summer cocktails
I never like to have too much food with a cocktail, and it has to be the right kind of food because otherwise they cancel each other out. My preference is for something like ceviche or sushi or a pesce crudo paired with a martini. Oysters with martini? Clams on the half shell with a martini? Come on! What’s better than that?
A dish to spoil his guests
I’m not an incredibly sophisticated cook, but I like to make dishes my friends wouldn’t make themselves or know how to make. I’ll often make a straightforward pasta dish. Sometimes, my wife will make gnocchi and I’ll whip up a fresh tomato sauce with olive oil, a little garlic, a little onion, basil and then throw in some fresh shrimp or langoustines. I like to steam them super quick in the sauce with the gnocchi.
The perfect summer pasta
You take nice ripe plum tomatoes or cherry tomatoes and you let them marinate in olive oil and garlic for a few hours. Not too much garlic, just a clove. Then you take the pasta – you can use penne or use whatever pasta you like – and add the room temperature sauce. Sometimes I add goat cheese or ricotta or a soft cheese and mix it in. It’s one of the greatest things because the pasta almost cooks the tomato, and the combination is to die for.
In England, the weather’s always a little dicey. But we like to eat outside in the garden when we can. We have a nice table setting, and the kids like to set the table now. I have an outdoor barbecue and a pizza oven. What I want to put in is an open fire for long, thin logs and a rotisserie.
Hot summer reads
I just read British writer Elizabeth Days’s Magpie, which was wonderful. And I’m now reading Bonnie Garmus’s Lessons in Chemistry, which is fantastic. It’s got food and drinks and is a really good read.
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