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Stanley Tucci on his star turn playing himself—and the perfect Italian meal for right now

The beloved actor shares the origins of his hit CNN series and what he hopes you’ll learn from it about Italy.

Stanley Tucci on his star turn playing himself—and the perfect Italian meal for right now
[Illustration: Spiros Halaris]

Stanley Tucci has played a range of characters, from a fashion editor (The Devil Wears Prada) to a serial killer (The Lovely Bones), but this past year he has delighted audiences like never before by playing himself. The actor-director whet viewers’ appetite for his savoir faire in April 2020 when a video of him making Negronis in his London home went viral, viewed nearly 6 million times on Twitter alone. As the host of the CNN travel series Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy—which was filmed before the pandemic but debuted in February 2021—Tucci connected viewers, hungry for adventure and connection while stuck at home, with chefs and locals from his ancestral homeland who offer rich explanations of culinary technique and history. The travelogue quickly became the No. 1 cable news program, with more than 1.9 million viewers, leading CNN to celebrate its best-ever February ratings and order up another season.

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Where did the concept for the show come from?

The way I grew up. My mother is an amazing cook. Food was everything for us. My friends would always want to come over to eat. I saw how it could bring people together.

What did you hope the series would accomplish?

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To show the diversity not just of Italian food but of Italy. It’s not always sunny with everybody [eating pizza]. Sometimes it is, but not always. We went from the island of Lampedusa, 90 miles off the coast of Africa, to an area bordering the Alps, close to Austria and Switzerland. Those are totally different countries.

You’ve written cookbooks, and you directed and starred in Big Night, about an Italian restaurant. Are your passions for acting and food intertwined?

I worked in restaurants when I was young. It teaches you work ethic, how to interact with people, how to work under pressure. [During the pandemic] I’ve seen so many restaurants that have thrown in the towel, and that’s heartbreaking. I wanted to bring chefs like Tony Lo Coco [who runs the Michelin-starred I Pupi restaurant] on my show to explain how special restaurants are.

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You have a memoir coming out in October, Taste: My Life Through Food. What was it like to write?

It goes through those phases where you go, Why am I writing this? I have nothing to say, this is the most boring book anyone will ever read. And then suddenly you read it and go, Oh, that’s not bad. The same thing happens with screenplays, or when you’re directing or acting. That doubt is really important.

What dish would you recommend to our readers for right now?

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Well, it’ll be late summer, so you can make a little pasta vongole. If you can get some nice clams to make it, and then eat it outside with a nice bottle of white wine, that’s the best.

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