Everything You Need To Know About Stanley Tucci: Searching For Italy

We don't know about you, but we can't wait for Stanley Tucci: Searching or Italy. For the six-part special, which premieres on February 14, on CNN, the Golden Globe-winning actor and third-generation Italian-American (via Cultural Weekly) travels to his ancestral homeland, exploring the culture and the food of Italy and examining how the two are inextricably linked.

The program helps to fill CNN's food-and-travel void left by the untimely death of Anthony Bourdain, whose Parts Unknown ended with the star's suicide in 2018. According to the network, Searching for Italy "follows Academy Award nominee Stanley Tucci as he travels across Italy to discover the secrets and delights of the country's regional cuisines" and "explores how Italian cooking offers a glimpse into the country's rich history and culture."

The show is guaranteed to inspire serious food envy. According to the Wall Street Journal, viewers will be treated to a beautifully shot video of the country's tantalizing fare, not to mention multiple "Oh my God, that is so good!" moments from Tucci: The four pastas of Rome (cacio e pepe, gricia, carbonara, and Amatriciana); the lemons of the Amalfi Coast in dishes like delizie al limone dessert; the panzanella bread salads of Florence; and the veal chops and risotto of Milan to name a few.

The show will air Sunday nights at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.

"The right show" after Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown series, which ran from 2013 to 2018, came at just the right time to make it a hit. According to The Hollywood Reporter, CNN's popular food-and-travel show launched itself on the heels of a contentious presidential election, when Americans were ready for a break from hard news, politics, and the world's problems. Similarly, Searching for Italy promises escapism with jaw-dropping scenery, scrumptious food, and some much-need joie de vivre, courtesy of the charming Tucci and the Italian chefs, artisans, and cultural figures he meets on his Italian journey.

Tucci said he knew and admired Bourdain, calling him "a great explorer of the human condition through food." But the actor and host drew a distinction between the shows. Searching for Italy will not be nearly as "brave" or adventurous as Parts Unknown, he explained. CNN executive Amy Entelis added, however, that Searching for Italy will, like Bourdain's show, air on Sunday nights, which the network once again intends to use as a showcase for "high-quality" original shows.

The order of the episodes is controversial

Variety magazine points out that the order in which CNN is airing the episodes of Searching for Italy is jarring when considered within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Four of the Searching for Italy episodes were filmed in 2019 before COVID-19 ravaged this European nation. 

The "first" episode of Searching for Italy takes place in Naples and was shot in the summer of 2020. Tucci sets up the context for the episode in the opening scene, explaining that the episode takes place in a "moment of normality" after the deadly spring brought about by the pandemic. Variety criticizes the show for glossing over the terrible events and missing an opportunity to capture the pandemic's impact on the traditions, food, and families the show examines. Variety continues, criticizing the show for treating the devastating event as an "asterisk" and adding that the "bizarre" decision is especially confounding given that Searching for Italy is "otherwise very smart and endearing." 

We're not sure of the reason for the order, but episodes 2, 4, 5, and 6 were shot pre-pandemic, whereas 1 and 3 took place during the pandemic.

Tucci is a life-long foodie

Stanley Tucci says food has played an integral role in every phase of his life. He is writing his third book, Taste, My Life Through Food (via Literary Hub). The tome will address the importance of family meals from his childhood in suburban New York all the way through his roles in food-related in films, including that of Julia Childs' husband in Julie & Julia. Tucci has often spoken of the role food played in his upbringing. He told Cultural Weekly he lived in Italy for a year as a child and that "my Italian heritage is a huge part of who I am."

His food-centric life and upbringing inspired his art. In 1996, Tucci co-wrote, co-directed, and co-starred in the award-winning comedy Big Night, which told the story of the opening of an Italian-American restaurant. The film was praised for its story as well as its delicious cooking scenes. Tucci is also the author of two cookbooks: 2012's The Tucci Cookbook (via Amazon) and The Tucci Table (2014, via Amazon).

Such an Italian food aficionado is Tucci that when originally discussing the series with CNN, he told the network he wanted to explore each of Italy's 22 (yes, 22!) food regions. That's a deep dive for a country the size of California. In 2020, Tucci went viral with a series of YouTube and Instagram videos, in which he teaches his followers how to make various cocktails offeres a sneak preview of the charm fans can expect in Searching for Italy.

The show is a food-culture-history mash-up

In Searching for Italy, Tucci tastes and helps to prepare the specialties of each region (Naples and the Amalfi Coast, Rome, Bologna, Milan, Tuscany, and Sicily) as he zigzags through Italy. He told the Hollywood Reporter his mission was to show the depth and breadth of Italy's food: In other words, to go beyond spaghetti and meatballs. In each episode, Tucci meets cooks, academics, artisan food producers, and others who provide a peek at the region's culture. He told the news outlet that once you've seen the way "real" Italians cook, "your life, and your kitchen, completely changes."

According to Variety, it's Tucci's trip off the beaten path that reveals authentic moments like investigating the four signature pastas of Rome and the creative ways Italians have used organ meats. The show explores history in segments such as the profile of a Jewish chef who fled to Rome after evading the Nazis as a child. Her artichoke hearts (Tucci hails them as better than any other he's tried) pay homage to the city's Jewish immigrants.

This mash-up can also be seen in the Naples episode, in which Tucci explores "two of Italy's favorite subjects: food and death." The episode looks at the long-lasting impact of Mount Vesuvius on the Southern City as well as the enduring role cholera has played on the city's food traditions (via the Wall Street Journal).

Been looking for a way to indulge your food-centric wanderlust until we're able to travel again? Searching for Italy could satisfy your craving.