Stanley Tucci is obsessed with the culture and cuisine of his ancestral home. And now the Italian-American actor, writer and producer is bringing his obsession with pasta, wine and Italian culture to the small screen. Searching for Italy, a six-episode documentary series debuting this weekend on CNN, follows Tucci as he tastes his way through Tuscany, Campania, Sicily and more.
"Stanley's biggest desire was to convey the culinary specificity of each region of Italy by looking at their unique history, geography and politics," Searching for Italy executive producer Eve Kay told Wine Spectator via email. "This draws him to contributors who have a huge passion and knowledge of what they do."
Tucci teamed with London-based production company Raw TV and CNN to produce the show. The series opens in Naples, where Tucci meets with renowned pizzaiolo Enzo Coccia and tours the city’s Spanish Quarter, with some scenes showing a glimpse of a local volcano named Vesuvius in the background (no word yet on whether he made it to the 2,000-year-old local wine bar). Later episodes follow him around Rome, Bologna, Milan and Florence, where he partakes in a pandemic-approved wine window crawl to sample some local Sangiovese.
In Sicily, Tucci met with Azienda Agricola Arianna Occhipinti winemaker Arianna Occhipinti. Among other things, they talked about her efforts to combat the declining local youth population by providing employment opportunities for young people.
"Occhipinti uses organic methods to farm the indigenous vines of Nero d'Avola and Frappato grapes to create delicate vintages," Kay told us. "As the poorest region of Italy, Sicily isn't well-known for its wines, nor have Sicilian women been traditionally economically active or commercially successful as winemakers, so we wanted to change the common perception on both those scores and champion it's superb indigenous wines."
The first four episodes of Searching for Italy were filmed in fall 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic had shuttered most of Italy, and the last two were filmed in September 2020, when maintaining safe social distance in public became something of a test for the cult-favorite actor. "One of the biggest challenges was negotiating our way through crowded streets with Stanley," executive producer Adam Hawkins said. "Everyone wanted their picture taken with him!"
Searching for Italy premieres Sunday, Feb. 14, at 9 p.m. ET, and will air weekly on CNN.
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