Stanley Tucci on grief, the perfect risotto and becoming an internet sex symbol at 62

When Tucci was traveling around Tuscany for his CNN show, he found himself breaking bread with a group of politicians discussing the state of the nation. “When that conversation about politics was over people became completely different when they talked about their food,” he recalls. “Their voices rose, their bodies changed, they were less guarded. They had real, passionate conversations about fucking spaghetti.”

As he traveled around the country for the show, which jumps between 20 Italian regions, he saw that this was a place where people would grapple with the right way to do paapa al pomodoro. Here, food is political. Food is personal. This is despite the fact that you travel ten miles down the road in Puglia and realize that the region’s classic recipe has gone in a new direction. “Someone will say, ‘Well, I do it this way’ and the other person will say ‘no,'” he says. “It’s always ‘no’. Everyone has an opinion, from the cab driver to the politician to the guy who works in the bookstore. They start talking about things and inevitably they end up talking about food.”

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This sudden animation process is exactly what happens to Stanley Tucci when we leave the members’ bar (pausing on the way out as if at the foot of the Trevi fountain to say, “I love a bar”) , and walk across the street to a restless Italian cafe. We take a seat in the back with Peroni and the staff, who have clearly been Tucci’d before, eagerly tackle the plastic menus.

When Tucci talks about food, he sits up.

The prawn risotto he made the other evening with Court-bouillon stock he whipped up in five minutes but he did such difference in taste. “You can make one very quickly,” he says. “You take the heads and the shells, throw them in, sauté for a second with a little onion, garlic and salt. Cook that, strain it, and literally within five minutes you have a great seafood stock.”

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Then there is the electric pizza oven he has at home and Seriously, you wouldn’t believe how good it is. “It’s unbelievable, you would have no idea. You’d think I cooked it in a wood-burning oven, and it cooks it in three minutes.”

Then there are crimes against pasta. He gets angry when people use the wrong shape of pasta for binges that require a tube of fat to catch the meat. The correct pasta shape is important. You need ribbons of linguini to really slice the pasta with tomato sauce. “Cheese on seafood pasta,” he says as he falls spiritually. “That’s just stupid. Do you do that? This interview is over.”

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This enthusiastic attitude towards food is the sustaining force in his BBC series, a show in which he finally found the role of his career: his enjoyable self. I Searching for Italy, Listening to Tucci talk about the shower of nutmeg lurking in the depths of duck ragu is like sinking into a warm bath. The show does for papardelle what Normal people he made a small gold chain for Paul Mescal, that is to say to rebrand something normally erotic. It’s the same voice that takes you from plate to plate in his memoir, “Taste”, released in October 2021 and still at number one on the Sunday Times bestseller list.


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