“Stanley Tucci: Seeking For Italy” opens with the actor striding down a bustling Naples road in a beautifully tailored summer time suit, dodging Italians on Vespas and scanning the sidewalks for his following mouth watering food. It is precisely the picturesque circumstance you may be expecting and want from a vacation collection hosted by Tucci, an extraordinarily charming existence who understands and loves Italian meals, judging by his shown knowledge on the exhibit and great 2012 cookbook, a compendium of beloved Italian classics simply titled “The Tucci Cookbook.” And nonetheless, the very first words Tucci speaks on his new CNN journey clearly show are words of reassurance to clarify the reality that this episode was filmed in the course of the summer months of 2020, mere months after COVID-19 devastated Italy further than measure.
“It’s hard to imagine that just a several months back the to start with wave of COVID-19 had emptied the streets of Naples, and Italy was in lockdown,” Tucci’s opening voiceover muses. “Thankfully, I have arrived through a quick second of normality: dining establishments are open and masks are not required outdoors. We’ll be sticking to the area policies.” And with that, Tucci moves ideal alongside to sing the city’s praises with only a few masked encounters and occasional elbow bumps to remind the audience of the fraught time time period in which he’s checking out.
Launching “Searching For Italy” with this episode is an exceptionally confusing selection, and not just because we now know that this clear “moment of normality” didn’t previous. 4 of the show’s six episodes had been filmed in the tumble of 2019, months before the pandemic strike. Only two episodes — this premiere in Naples and a potential chapter in Bologna — were filmed in 2020. Not every collection has to air in the get it was filmed to make sense, but in this remarkable situation, dealing with an great event these types of as a pandemic like an inconvenient asterisk does a disservice to both of those the display and the region it covers. It also feels like a missed opportunity from a narrative perspective. “Searching For Italy” spends substantially of its time detailing the country’s rich cafe culture and how critical accumulating to eat is for Italian households over-all. If Tucci and corporation were being decided to go again to Italy in 2020, months just after they wrapped taking pictures their preliminary episodes, why not seize the moment to speak additional particularly to how the pandemic disrupted those people traditions and examine how the nation had to adjust? That could possibly have intended getting a unique Italy than the demonstrate was initially browsing for, but it at the very least could have justified the check out.
This weird preliminary final decision is created even extra discouraging by the fact that the series is in any other case really intelligent and endearing. The 2nd episode to air, for instance, will see Tucci checking out Rome, a metropolis also frequently dismissed as mere vacationer bait. But Tucci will make an exertion to request out its much less apparent spots and foods, like 4 signature Roman pasta dishes and a intriguing detour into the creative methods Italian chefs have remodeled offal, or all the organs and bits of gristly meat that poorer Italians realized to do the job into delicacies. In one particular notably good segment, Tucci visits a Jewish chef who grew up in a ghettoized area of Rome and only narrowly escaped the Nazis as a youngster. Now, she operates a restaurant specializing in artichoke hearts, an component lengthy still left to the city’s poorer Jewish group. When she offers Tucci her possess edition of a fried artichoke, its leaves miraculously splayed in the condition of a shining sunlight, his face lights up as he declares it the greatest artichoke heart he’s at any time experienced.
In a later on episode, Tucci returns to Tuscany, the town his family the moment termed property and which speedily adjusted the trajectory of his individual everyday living. Tucci’s ease and comfort in Italy and palpable adore for its society is genuinely infectious — not just for these he fulfills and charms together the way, but for this viewer, much too. And in the all essential examination of how voraciously a journey exhibit host essentially eats the foodstuff on offer you, Tucci passes with flying shades, fortunately engulfing each bite with vigor.
With no getting able to vacation to Italy whenever quickly, it is a sincere satisfaction to devote some time there vicariously via a host as game and genial as Tucci. Should really he ever choose to increase his tour of the nation and really unravel its thorny new truth instead of glossing about it, it would probably make for even a lot more intriguing, revealing television. But in the meantime, he invitations us to sign up for him for some fantastic dialogue more than thick twirls of pasta, bright panzanellas, lavish cuts of meat and glimmering eyeglasses of wine — an supply which is finally just also great to refuse.
“Stanley Tucci: Searching For Italy” premieres Sunday, Feb. 14 at 9 pm on CNN.