The Mouthwatering Italian Eats Stanley Tucci Savored in Season Two of ‘Searching for Italy’
The Mouthwatering Italian Eats Stanley Tucci Savored in Season Two of 'Searching for Italy' - The Best of Naples: Pizza, Pasta, and Seafood Stanley Devoured
Stanley Tucci's tour of Naples in season two of 'Searching for Italy' highlighted some of the city's most iconic dishes that encapsulate the true spirit of Neapolitan cuisine. As the birthplace of pizza, Naples takes its famous pie very seriously. Tucci got a taste of the city's renowned pizza during a visit to L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele. This historic pizzeria opened in 1870 and serves just two simple pizzas - the marinara and the margherita. Tucci opted for the classic margherita, made with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil and olive oil. He declared it "perfectly delicious" and marveled at the simplicity of the ingredients that nevertheless resulted in an extraordinary pie.
Beyond pizza, Naples is also renowned for its pasta creations. Tucci stopped by a tiny neighborhood pasta shop called Poppella to try their regional specialty - pasta mista. This dish features an assortment of mixed, fresh pastas tossed together. Tucci sampled rigatoni, paccheri, fusilli and calamarata styles, all cooked to perfection al dente. The pasta mista was served in a tomato sauce made with San Marzano tomatoes that are famous for their sweet, rich flavor. Tucci exclaimed that the pasta was "heaven on earth."
No culinary tour of Naples would be complete without seafood. Tucci indulged in the city's famous fried fish during a visit to Friggitoria Vomero, a street food stand that's been frying up fish and vegetables since 1950. Tucci sampled fried anchovies, baby squid and a white fish called paranza. The fish are fried quickly at a high heat, resulting in an ultra light and crispy coating. Tucci raved about the fresh catch and simple preparation that allowed the pristine seafood flavors to shine through.
In addition to street food stands, Tucci also visited more formal seafood establishments to experience the breadth of Neapolitan seafood cuisine. At Ristorante La Scialuppa, a multi-course seafood feast awaited. To start, Tucci enjoyed crudo - raw seafood preparations highlighting the freshness of the ingredients. Thin slices of raw red shrimp and baby squid were topped with olive oil, lemon and sea salt, creating a bright, clean flavor. Next came linguine with scampi showcasing sweet langoustines from the Bay of Naples. A simple sauce of olive oil, garlic and peperoncino allowed the sweet shrimp to be the star.
No Neapolitan seafood meal is complete without branzino, a tender white fish from the Mediterranean. At La Scialuppa, Tucci was served branzino baked in sea salt, which gives a delicate crust while keeping the fish moist. Branzino has been fished from the waters off Naples for centuries. Tucci called it "simple, light and extraordinary."
Beyond restaurants, Tucci got a first-hand look at where Naples' famous seafood originates from. He woke before dawn to board a fishing boat heading out to catch octopus. Pulling up octopus-filled pots from the deep blue sea, the fired-up fisherman explained that the Bay of Naples' waters are ideal for rearing octopus. Back on land, Tucci watched the catch of the day get whisked away on motorbikes to supply seafood purveyors and restaurants across the city.
The Mouthwatering Italian Eats Stanley Tucci Savored in Season Two of 'Searching for Italy' - Tuscan Treats: Stanley's Favorite Food Finds in Florence and Tuscany
When Stanley Tucci explored the Tuscan region of Italy in season two of 'Searching for Italy,' he discovered why Tuscany's cuisine is so revered. From Florence to remote country villas, Tucci experienced Tuscan specialties that have endured for centuries.
In Florence, Tucci met up with chef Annie Féolde of Enoteca Pinchiorri, one of the most acclaimed restaurants in Italy. At her restaurant, reinvented Tuscan classics take center stage. Tucci sampled two primi piatti pasta courses that demonstrated refined Tuscan flavors. First came pici cacio e pepe, a hand-rolled, thick spaghetti pasta tossed in a sauce of Pecorino Toscano cheese, pepper and pasta water. The rich, salty Pecorino cheese paired beautifully with the hearty pici pasta. Next was ravioli with artichoke stuffing in a lemon sauce. Féolde explained that Tuscans often use artichokes in filled pastas to add an earthy depth. The ravioli filling had an intriguing bitterness that contrasted the bright lemon sauce.
From Florence, Tucci escaped to Villa Le Barone in Tuscany's Chianti region. At the villa's cookery school, he learned to make ribollita, a famous Tuscan soup. Ribollita means "reboiled" and was traditionally made by reheating leftover minestrone. At Villa Le Barone, Tucci helped assemble ribollita starting with a sauté of onions, carrots, celery and pancetta. To this, cavolo nero was added - a dark leafy green similar to kale that grows abundantly in Tuscany. White beans, day-old bread, tomato paste and vegetable broth were incorporated before letting the soup simmer into a thick, hearty meal. A drizzle of Tuscan olive oil and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese finished this peasant soup turned Tuscan icon.
Another Villa Le Barone cooking class focused on handmade pasta. Tucci learned to properly knead and roll out pasta dough using local wheat flour. He then shaped tortelli Mugellani, a filled pasta hailing from Tuscany's Mugello valley. Small pockets of pasta were filled with ricotta and spinach, then topped with melted butter, sage and Parmesan. The tender pasta pouches burst with an addictively creamy center. Tucci called tortelli Mugellani "quintessential Tuscan food."
At a roadside salumeria, Tucci got to sample one of Tuscany's most famous exports - its cured meats. He tasted finocchiona, a fennel salami that gets its name from the abundant wild fennel grown in the region. Fennel seeds studded throughout the sausage add sweet anise notes. Tucci also sampled prosciutto Toscano DOP, the Tuscan version of Italy's famous cured ham. Aged for over a year, the prosciutto was tender and silky with a delicate meaty flavor. To complete his Tuscan meat tasting, Tucci tried salame cinta senese DOP, a coveted Tuscan specialty made from the meat of indigenous Cinta Senese pigs. This nearly-black salami is bold, salty and assertive.
Venturing to the ancient hilltop village of Montefollonico, Tucci met with olive oil producer Ginevra Bini and sampled her family farm's award-winning olive oils. Extra virgin olive oil is a pillar of Tuscan cuisine. Bini explained that Tuscany's climate and soil create excellent growing conditions for Frantoio and Moraiolo olive trees that give Tuscan olive oil its trademark green fruitiness with a pleasant bitter undertone. Drizzling her olive oil over freshly baked schiacciata bread, Tucci remarked how Tuscan olive oil makes everything taste better.
No meal in Tuscany would be complete without wine, as Tucci discovered at Avignonesi vineyard. He toured the vineyards growing Sangiovese grapes, used to produce Chianti and other Tuscan reds. In the cellar, he sampled Avignonesi's 50 year old Vin Santo, a dessert wine made by drying Sangiovese grapes before a slow fermentation. The resulting amber-hued wine had an intense dried fruit flavor that Tucci called "liquid gold." He paired it with traditional Tuscan cantucci cookies, whose crunch and almond flavor offset the sweet wine.
What else is in this post?
- The Mouthwatering Italian Eats Stanley Tucci Savored in Season Two of 'Searching for Italy' - The Best of Naples: Pizza, Pasta, and Seafood Stanley Devoured
- The Mouthwatering Italian Eats Stanley Tucci Savored in Season Two of 'Searching for Italy' - Emilia-Romagna's Bounty: Tucci's Tasting Tour of the 'Food Valley'
- The Mouthwatering Italian Eats Stanley Tucci Savored in Season Two of 'Searching for Italy' - Discovering Sicily Through Its Diverse Culinary Traditions
- The Mouthwatering Italian Eats Stanley Tucci Savored in Season Two of 'Searching for Italy' - Sardinia's Unique Dishes: Stanley's Journey Through the Island's Distinct Cuisine
The Mouthwatering Italian Eats Stanley Tucci Savored in Season Two of 'Searching for Italy' - Emilia-Romagna's Bounty: Tucci's Tasting Tour of the 'Food Valley'
The Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy is nicknamed the "Food Valley" for good reason - it produces some of Italy's most iconic foods and wines. From Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to traditional balsamic vinegar, Emilia-Romagna's bounty dazzled Stanley Tucci during his tour here for season two of 'Searching for Italy'.
Parma was an obvious first stop for Tucci to explore two of the region's most prized exports - Parma ham and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. At an acetaia called La Vecchia Dispensa, Tucci watched wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano being selected by a master casaro, or cheesemaker. Parmigiano Reggiano has been produced here for nearly 1,000 years using traditional techniques that give the cheese its characteristic flaky texture and nutty, complex flavor. Tucci sampled 18, 24 and 30 month aged wheels, noting how the flavour intensifies with age while the texture softens. At Fabbrica del Prosciutto di Parma, Tucci toured the facility where the region's famous Parma ham is cured. Thighs from heritage-breed pigs are dry salt cured for over 12 months, resulting in sweet, tender prosciutto. Tucci remarked how the microclimate in this part of Emilia-Romagna is perfectly suited to curing prosciutto that develops a delicate, perfumey aroma.
In the countryside outside Parma, Tucci met with a Parmigiano Reggiano producer at his small caseificio, or cheesemaking facility. Here, he got to see first-hand the meticulous process used to craft Parmigiano Reggiano for centuries. It starts by mixing raw milk from the morning milking with some of the whey held over from the prior day's cheesemaking. The milk curdles after whey is extracted through heat and rennet is added. Tucci watched the cheesemaker skillfully break up the curds and place them into circular molds. Every wheel is then pressed, soaked in brine, and aged on wooden racks for at least 12 months. While this traditional approach requires significant time and labor, it's the only way to achieve the granular texture and complex flavor that makes Parmigiano Reggiano unique. Tucci declared the freshly grated Parmigiano from the caseificio was "Vero Parmigiano Reggiano!" (truly Parmigiano Reggiano).
Leaving Parma, Tucci headed to the countryside town of Castelvetro in the heart of Emilia-Romagna's Lambrusco wine region. At Cleto Chiarli vineyard, Tucci learned that contrary to its mass-market image in the U.S., real Lambrusco is a dry, bubbly red wine made from local Lambrusco grapes. It ranges from light red fizzy wines to deeper, oak-aged styles. Tucci tried his hand at riddling the bottles, a process of rotating them to coax the dead yeast into collecting in the neck - a key step before disgorging the yeast plug to produce a crystal-clear bubbly. Enjoying a glass of the final product, Tucci noted the berry flavors with a pleasant dry minerality on the finish. Lambrusco has been produced in Emilia-Romagna since Roman times but is only recently gaining more appreciation.
Modena was the next stop on Tucci's Emilia-Romagna tasting tour. Here he met up with Massimo Bottura, the acclaimed chef whose Osteria Francescana has snagged the top spot on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list multiple times. Bottura challenged notions of traditional Italian cooking by reinventing classics with contemporary twists. At his Ristorante Cavallino in Modena, Bottura served Tucci his deconstructed tortellini creation. Taking the classic meat-filled pasta, he turned it into a consommé infused with tortellini flavors, topped with prosciutto crisps. Tucci called it "fantastico!" and the "essence of tortellini." Bottura's inventive approach celebrates the spirit of Emilia-Romagna's food while presenting it in new forms.
A visit to Agriturismo La Ca' del Re reignited Tucci's childhood memories of his family's farm in Northern Italy. At this working farm with a homestay and restaurant, Tucci dove into preparing a true Emilia-Romagna family meal. In the kitchen, he helped hand-crank pasta through a chitarra, a traditional boxed pasta cutting tool that creates long strands. The hand-cut tagliatelle was dressed simply with butter and Parmesan. Next, Tucci helped stuff cappelletti pasta purses with robust fillings of mortadella, provolone and prosciutto. These half-moon shaped pastas are a hallmark of Emilia-Romagna. Tucci also tried his hand at piadina, the region's famous flatbread. Getting hands-on with all components of the meal gave Tucci an appreciation for the labor behind even simple family meals in this part of Italy. But the results - a spread of fresh filled pastas, homemade piadina, cured meats, preserves and local wine - exemplified the spirit of Emilia-Romagna's generous, flavorful cuisine.
The Mouthwatering Italian Eats Stanley Tucci Savored in Season Two of 'Searching for Italy' - Discovering Sicily Through Its Diverse Culinary Traditions
Sicily's strategic location in the Mediterranean has resulted in an endless parade of outside influences shaping all aspects of life on the island, including its cuisine. Phoenicians, Greeks, Arabs, Normans, Spanish and French have all ruled over Sicily at some point, leaving an indelible mark on the island's remarkably diverse food culture. Stanley Tucci discovered first-hand why Sicilian cuisine is like no other in Italy during his tour here for season two of 'Searching for Italy.'
A highlight was Tucci's street food tour of Palermo, where he sampled classic Sicilian snacks that reveal the varied cultural imprints on the island. At a local friggitoria frying up crisp panelli, Tucci learned how these chickpea flour fritters trace back to Sicily's Arab and North African influences. Their subtle nuttiness and pillowy texture were perfectly complemented by a squeeze of lemon and sea salt - a timeless Sicilian flavor pairing. Next was sfincione, a thick, spongy Sicilian pizza sold at roadside bakeries and carts. Its crunchy, oily crust, melty caciocavallo cheese and tomatoes, onions, anchovies and breadcrumbs topping echo the flavors of Sicily's former Arabic rulers. Tucci called sfincione "Sicily on a pizza crust" and a must-try street snack.
Venturing into Palermo's sprawling Ballarò market, Tucci got a taste of Sicily's famous sweet-savory combos in the form of pani ca meusa - sesame seed buns stuffed with milza, or veal spleen and lung. This palette-jolting sandwich was brought to Sicily by Arab traders. The funky organ meat is cooked low and slow then chopped and fried till crispy before getting tucked into the soft bun. Tucci called it a "warm, soft, meaty hug" and quintessential Sicilian street food. Rounding out his market grazing was chickpea panelle, totally vegetarian fried fritters, for textural contrast.
Leaving Palermo, Tucci embarked on a quest to discover the origins of Sicily's most prized export - pistachios. He arrived in Bronte, west of Mount Etna, just as the annual pistachio harvest was underway. Bronte's mineral-rich volcanic soil and climate nurtures the world's best pistachios. Tucci walked the orchards dotted with gangly pistachio trees imported from Syria during Arab rule. He learned that red pistachios indicate ripeness and watched crews thrash trees with sticks to bring down the crimson nuts. At a roasting facility, pistachios turned from beige to forest green as they roasted over open fires. Their sweet, creamy flavor amazed Tucci, who proclaimed Bronte pistachios "Italy's finest."
Tucci traveled east to sample more pistachio-studded Sicilian classics. At Ristorante La Capinera, he dove into pasta con le sarde, an emblematic Palermitano dish with origins dating to Sicilian-Arab rule. Thick bucatini pasta gets topped with a sauce of olive oil, fennel, raisins, pine nuts and sardines, representing the coming together of Sicily's Arabic and fishing cultures. A generous sprinkling of pistachio on top provides crunch and nutty richness to balance the strong sardine flavors in this unique yet quintessentially Sicilian pasta.
Continuing east brought Tucci to Catania, dominated by the active volcano Mount Etna. Tucci joined chef Seby Sorbello to scale Mount Etna and forage for wild herbs and greens only found on volcanic soil. They harvested samples of the rare mountain thoroughwort, wild fennel and Nepitella mint before heading to Sorbello's Ristorante Piano B to put their spoils to use. There, Tucci learned how Sicilian chefs are reinventing the island's cuisine by incorporating hyper-local and foraged ingredients. Sorbello served a riff on pasta alla Norma, Sicily's iconic eggplant pasta dish named after a Catanian opera. Hand-rolled ricotta cavatelli pasta took the place of penne. The sauce married the foraged mountain herbs with stewed eggplants and ricotta salata cheese. Each bite highlighted the subtle flavors of Etna's biodiverse terrain. Tucci declared this pasta alla Norma 2.0 "genius."
The Mouthwatering Italian Eats Stanley Tucci Savored in Season Two of 'Searching for Italy' - Sardinia's Unique Dishes: Stanley's Journey Through the Island's Distinct Cuisine
Sardinia captivated Stanley Tucci with its wild landscape and cuisine unlike anything else he experienced in Italy. This large Mediterranean island has been shaped by wave after wave of foreign rule, from the Phoenicians and Carthaginians to the Byzantines, Arabs, Spanish and Piedmontese. Yet through it all, Sardinia proudly maintained its own vibrant culture and food traditions distinct from mainland Italy. Tucci remarked how Sardinia's rediscovery and celebration of their heritage, most notably through cuisine, has been "absolutely extraordinary.”
Tucci’s first stop was Alghero, a port town on Sardinia’s northwest coast with an enduring Catalan influence from when it was ruled by the Kingdom of Aragon into the 14th century. He joined chef Roberto Petza to sample local specialties that fuse Sardinian and Catalan flavors. At Petza’s S'Apposentu restaurant, Tucci tried fregula cun còciula, a dish tracing back to both cultures. Fregula pasta resembles giant couscous and was likely brought from North Africa by the Phoenicians. It's cooked in broth with pig’s blood, offal and herbs and sautéed pigs’ feet for rich, earthy flavor. The complex dish delighted Tucci, who said it tasted like “the essence of Sardinia.”
Next was panadas, pastry pockets filled with meat or vegetables that originated in Spain but took on a life of their own in Sardinia. Tucci tried Petza's reinvented panada ravioli, swapping thin pasta for the pastry and filling them with local lobster. The plump ravioli swimming in a tomato lobster broth was a maritime feast. Tucci marveled how Petza “takes local Sardinian ingredients and adds some magic from Catalonia.”
Leaving Alghero, Tucci ventured inland to sample more of Sardinia’s unique delicacies and wines. At a secluded mountain vineyard, he met with young winemaker Antonella Corda producing expressive Cannonau wine from Grenache grapes that have grown on Sardinia for centuries. An amber-hued Cannonau aged for 5 years in terracotta amphorae had aromas of chocolate and stone fruit with concentrated dried cherry flavors unlike any red Tucci had tasted. Cannonau expresses Sardinia’s landscape in a glass.
Nearby, Tucci stopped at a rustic cooking class to try Sardinian dishes that haven’t changed for generations. He watched fresh malloreddus pasta being hand cut into tiny shells. This pasta shape is only found in Sardinia. Topped simply with sausage, tomato sauce and pecorino cheese, the malloreddus were uplifted by the uniquely shaped pasta’s ability to hold sauce in each crevice.
Next was porcheddu, spit-roasted baby pig that Tucci called “quintessentially Sardinian.” The Bronte pistachios and myrtle used to flavor the succulent meat were foraged from the surrounding countryside. Porcheddu has been made this way since before the Romans arrived. Tucci washed it down with a crisp Nuragus white wine made from an ancient Sardinian grape variety.
Tucci remarked how Sardinians are “fiercely independent people” who seek to preserve their heritage against modernization. At organic farm Fradiles, Tucci learned first-hand about Sardinia’s rich biodiversity that allows unique produce to flourish. He snacked on finger-sized green beans and picked wild asparagus that tastes sweeter and nuttier than cultivated varieties. In the dining room, Tucci feasted on farm-raised roast lamb with roasted potatoes and more local Cannonau wine. The produce and livestock raised on this land made the simple meal extraordinary.
On Sardinia’s east coast, Tucci continued experiencing cuisine intrinsically tied to the island’s land and seas. At Ristorante Lu Pescatore, chef Roberta Murgia served up classics with a contemporary twist that let the high-quality ingredients shine. Sweet Mazara red shrimp from Sicily were barely cooked crudo-style to highlight their clean sea taste. Homemade culurgiones ravioli were filled with mint and potatoes, a beloved flavors pairing unique to Sardinia. Tucci enjoyed seeing Michelin-starred Chef Murgia not abandon her Sardinian roots but rather reinvent the cuisine to its full potential. "She hasn't forgotten where she came from," he noted.
No trip to Sardinia is complete without pecorino, the ubiquitous salty sheep’s milk cheese. At a pecorino producer, Tucci learned that the island’s rugged interior is perfect for sheep farming and cheesemaking. He sampled pecorino aged from 60 days up to two years. The longer-aged wheels had a pronounced spicy, almost meaty punch. Tucci drank local red Monica di Sardegna wine with the pecorino - a pairing that let the cheese's bold flavors shine.