Stanley Tucci’s “Searching for Italy” Is the Most Soothing Show on TV Right Now

published Mar 24, 2021
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Director Stanley Tucci attends a meet and greet with the cast of Broadway's "Lend Me a Tenor" at The New 42nd Street Studios on February 25, 2010 in New York City.
Credit: Getty Images | Jemal Countess | Staff

In April 2020 — back when Americans were learning the concept of social distancing, and washing their hands while singing Happy BirthdayStanley Tucci made a Negroni. Actually, Stanley Tucci probably made a lot of Negronis, but it was one in particular that caught the public’s attention. The actor posted a video of himself shaking up the cocktail on Instagram, and the internet loved it. It was calming. It was instructional. It was a sense of connection during the darkest of times. It was … arm-forward. Yeah, some people were just there to ogle.

And there’s a lot more where that came from. On his new travel show, Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy, Tucci provides that same comforting yet sophisticated aura. On Sunday nights at 9 p.m. on CNN, Tucci travels to one of Italy’s 20 regions to eat, drink, learn, and strike that signature balance of seeming deeply caring and mildly intimidating. (Sort of like Ina Garten. In his Negroni video, he even channels her with his request that we use “good sweet vermouth.”)

Tucci having an Italian travel show might seem random to some, but it really isn’t. He’s authored two cookbooks, and his passion for cooking is evident on his Instagram account. As he notes in the intro to each episode, he’s “Italian on both sides,” and he speaks the language well enough to hold a conversation. And, as the Tuscany episode explains, he and his family lived in the region for a year when his art-teacher father took some time to study drawing and sculpture. So, Searching for Italy does have some connection to his roots, but mostly, he’s searching Italy for delicious food and easily shareable tidbits of history. Did you know that tomatoes only made their way to the country in the 1500s? Tooch taught me that. 

On the show, he tours facilities where Parmesan and mozzarella are made. He learns about a type of beef raised to be safely consumed raw. He downs drool-worthy Neapolitan pizza. He hates Tuscan bread and won’t stop talking about it. Apparently, that’s because it’s made without salt and this dates back to a centuries-old trade issue. Tooch taught me that, too. 

In one particularly memorable scene from the Naples and the Amalfi Coast episode, Tucci and his wife, Felicity Blunt, return to a restaurant they once visited that has an amazing pasta with zucchini. They’ve been trying to recreate the dish at home for years, and now have asked to see it prepared. Unlike a scene where he enjoys, say, a panzanella — hey! I make that at home! — this is not at all relatable. Neither is the way he keeps pronouncing zucchini as the Italian zucchine, even though he’s otherwise speaking English. But, this distance between Tucci’s experience and that of the everyday American viewer actually makes the show even more of a joy to watch. Just like with the Negroni video, watching a chic man do chic things in a chic setting is appealing. 

Basically, this show will suit anyone who wants to chill out to something calming while learning a thing or two. (Some of the show was filmed pre-COVID and some during, so some episodes are a bit more chill than others.) My mom texted me multiple times requesting that I tune in after the show premiered. Her usual TV suggestions are historical documentaries and movies from the 1940s. My usual TV viewing habits are reality shows where rich women yell at each other. We both enjoy Searching for Italy. And are both, undoubtedly, starving by the end.