Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy, the critically-acclaimed six-part CNN Original Series that follows Academy Award nominee Stanley Tucci as he travels across Italy to discover the secrets and delights of the country’s regional cuisines, debuts on CNN International this weekend.
In the first episode, airing on Sunday 20th June, Tucci visits Naples and the Amalfi Coast. Here, he feasts on pizza in Naples, before embarking on a whirlwind tour to find the freshest mozzarella and the best San Marzano tomatoes, and enjoying spectacular spaghetti and zucchini.
Subsequent episodes will air weekly on CNN International with Tucci visiting a different region or city of Italy, including Rome, Bologna, Milan, Tuscany and Sicily.
Naples is the third largest and most populous city in Italy. But its history and beauty has been tainted with underdog status from close association with Vesuvius - the world’s most dangerous volcano, the Camorra – a notorious branch of the local mafia, and poverty.
In the city’s historic Spanish Quarter, Stanley meets Professor Elisabetta Moro who takes him to the last authentic fried pizza maker, Fernanda’s. Elisabetta explains that in a poor city that suffered from cholera, pizza fritte was important because it was cheap and hot oil was a way of sterilizing food. Not only is the fried pizza combo of creamy ricotta with salty pork lard delicious, it also underpinned the emergence of pizza proper.
Stanley meets Enzo Coccia, the proud King of Neapolitan Pizza to learn the secret art of arguably the world’s best pizza. Stanley embarks on a whirlwind tour to find the freshest mozzarella and the best San Marzano tomatoes for Enzo to work his magic on. The result is a perfectly balanced triumph of the senses.
Stanley visits Scampia, an isolated, poor neighbourhood outside the city. The residents have opened a restaurant to bring hope to an area of high crime and unemployment. The local Roma population have joined forces with the Neapolitans to create mouth-watering culinary fusions such as sarme, a delicious stuffed cabbage roll and Serbian-style moussaka made using friarelli, a distinctly Neapolitan broccoli.
Just a short boat ride from Naples lies the small island of Ischia where Stanley revisits one of his favourite restaurants, Il Focolare, perched on the side of a mountain. Here the D’Ambra family all live, work, cook and eat together. Ischia is overrun with rabbits, so the traditional Sunday dish is mouth-watering rabbit-in-a-pot with tomatoes, white wine and a whole bulb of garlic.
Naples is part of Campania, a region encompassing one of the most beautiful coastlines on earth – the Amalfi Coast. Stanley’s next stop is Lo Scoglio restaurant, which makes spectacular spaghetti and zucchini. Located on an idyllic beach overlooking azure waters, his wife, Felicity, flies out to join him. There’s just one small problem… a storm is rolling in.
Stanley survives the storm and heads up coast to Minori to meet pastry chef maestro Salvatore de Riso to savour his sensational Delizie al Limone. After demonstrating the sublime qualities of the Amalfi lemons, Sal shows Stanley the delicate art of creating the creamy dessert.
Neapolitans have survived volcanoes, earthquakes, pandemics, war and poverty. In defiant life affirming response, they have given the world incredible dishes to be shared and enjoyed by billions.
Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy will air on CNN International starting June 20th [all times GST]: Sundays at 15:00, 19:00, 22:00 and 05:00; and Wednesdays at 15:00, 22:00 and 05:00