Stream or skip? +2023

Stanley Tucci: In Search of Italy became a popular travel show for CNN when the series premiered in the midst of the pandemic last year. Now that the second half of Season 2 meets Discovery+, does the show still retain that wanderlust vibe that it first had when we were all cooped up?

opening shot: “Ever since I was a child, I’ve dreamed of returning to Calabria,” explains Stanley Tucci while driving up a winding mountain road in southern Italy. (The toe of his boot, to be precise.) Although the actor has filmed over a dozen episodes of his travel show at this point, this one is a bit different because, as he explains, Calabria is the region where both sides of his family hail from , so this episode in the second season of his show is a special, more personal one.

The essentials: Spoil me as I recall a memory: A few years ago (when I was childless and watched even more TV than I do now) I discovered a series on New York City public television called Vine talk that was hosted by Stanley Tucci. On the show, Tucci, a couple of his famous friends, and a wine expert literally just sat around talking about wine. It was haughty and learned, and Eater called it “an insane parody of himself.” It was a New Yorker cartoon came to life, and maybe that’s why I kept watching it, even though my taste in wine tended toward “sweet and white, preferably with ice cubes.”

I think of this show when I watch it Stanley Tucci: In Search of Italy, for in his travel show, Tucci’s passion for Italy and its food is as strong as his passion for wine in his old show, but he’s made this series far more sympathetic and less affected than the former. In each episode, Tucci travels to a different region of the country, meeting and cooking with local people and exploring the uniqueness of each region.

In Calabria, an entire segment is spent with Tucci traveling through his paternal grandfather’s hometown while trying to track down the house where he was born. Climate near the ocean, are one of the region’s agricultural crown jewels. Later, Tucci made a trip to a town from which the majority of the population has fled because the town has fallen under the control of the local mafia. Italy is a beautiful country full of incredible food, and the show’s production helps sell both. Tucci is both enthusiastic and willing to learn about the regions he visits, and he’s a thoughtful substitute for those of us who don’t have the privilege of traveling to those places in person.

Stanley Tucci: In Search of Italy

What shows will it remind you of? It’s hard to watch Tucci’s show and not compare it magnificently to popular travel shows like Anthony Bourdain’s No reservations or Someone feed Phil. While Bourdain’s show is a “Here, have this shot of aquavit and then we can go to a Swedish hot tub at 2am” and Phil Rosenthal’s show is “Hold my hoagie while I eat this other hoagie,” Tucci’s show is more like that : “Can anyone tell me if the grapes in this wine are grown on sandy soil?”

Our opinion: Search for Italy was made for CNN, and it has a novel, intellectual quality. You are here to travel and see the beautiful sights, but you are also here to learn from a man who takes his homeland seriously. You’ll be taken off the beaten track to learn about a particular city’s millenary cooking traditions, the way produce is grown and yes, since this is Italy, the mob influence on certain areas. Tucci never dives too deep into any particular topic, but he does provide an introduction to all sorts of delightful and delicious information.

After watching more than my share of travel and food shows, I’ve come to realize that it’s less about where the show is going than who the host is. That’s why people like Anthony Bourdain make such an impression. Tucci doesn’t try to imitate others, and that’s a good thing, he just feels both familiar, having seen him in dozens of films, and trustworthy, exuding an aura of your friend who’s already read every guidebook and willing to share what they know. He just wants to share his enthusiasm for all the nooks and crannies he’s discovered.

gender and skin: Mi dispiace, no.

farewell shot: Tucci, who has been reunited with a few dozen of his extended family members, sits at a table and thanks them for their warmth and hospitality while he gushes off about how no matter where you are in Calabria, the people can make you feel feel like family.

sleeping star: Tucci is the only recurring “character” on the show, but to be honest, he’s often overshadowed by the food.

Most pilot line: “Magnificent. Dolcissima!” Tucci says, one of his many emphatic, bilingual declarations of reverence for the food and country he visits. In this case, he’s specifically referring to a raw onion he just ate like an apple.

Our appeal: STREAM IT! Tucci is an eloquent guide who enthusiastically takes us on a journey that, let’s face it, most of us will never have the pleasure of enjoying in real life. Why not live the good life with him?

Liz Kocan is a pop culture writer based in Massachusetts. Her biggest claim to fame is the time she won on the game show chain reaction.

Leave a Comment