Stanley Tucci is searching for Italy

Sunday: Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy - (BBC2, 8.20pm)

Stanley Tucci and chef Chiara Pavan at Ristorante Venissa in Venice
Stanley Tucci and chef Chiara Pavan at Ristorante Venissa in Venice

We’ve all seen documentary series presented by someone who is famous for doing something completely different.

They range in quality from the mediocre to the fascinating, but very few turn into global phenomena. That’s what happened to the first run of this sumptuous show, delivering a surprise hit for news network CNN, which brought it to our screens in 2021.

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It followed affable actor Stanley Tucci as he visited each Italian region, exploring their cultures, history and food.

There were lots of muffled exclamations and moans of delight as Stanley scoffed down plateful after plateful of fabulous food in romantic locations such as Rome, Bologna, Tuscany and Sicily.

They were echoed by anyone who tuned in, drooling and wishing eat-o-vision was a real thing. We all adored the food, but we all fell in love with Stanley. Of course he was a celebrity long before Searching for Italy was even a glint in CNN’s eye. He made his big-screen debut in the 1985 Jack Nicholson flick Prizzi’s Honor, and the CV he has built up since includes roles in Billy Bathgate, Road to Perdition, The Lovely Bones, Margin Call, and Supernova.

Stanley has racked up TV appearances in everything from Monk – which earned him one of his five Emmy Awards – to Alejandro Amenabar’s La Fortuna, and he can currently be seen in BBC1’s Inside Man. Although it’s been around 20 years since he was last on the stage, chances are it won’t be too long before a project comes his way.

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Stanley’s everyman appeal shone through in Searching for Italy, and the show was all the more poignant after he revealed in 2021 that he had undergone chemotherapy and radiation when a tumour was found at the base of his tongue.

He credited his wife Felicity, who he met while filming The Devil Wears Prada alongside her sister, Emily Blunt, with helping him recover.

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Stanley said at the time: “Felicity’s undying attention, affection, and encouragement got me through it,” and admitted some food still tasted “weird” to him.

It was a subject he explored in his memoir Taste: My Life Through Food published a few weeks after he admitted his brush with cancer.

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When comparing his twin loves of acting and food, he told Town & Country: “Cooking is in some ways, perhaps most like the theatre in the sense that it disappears and then you have to create it again, and maybe when you recreate it, you’re a different person. I think that for that reason, it is one of the most interesting crafts but also one of the most interesting art forms.”

Fast forward to now, and we’re on the cusp of soaking up a second series. The first episode kicks off in the splendour of Venice, where Stanley gets his chops around the city’s fascinating food culture, as well as its connections to its aquatic environment.

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He also explores the countless influences from around the world that have impacted on Venice throughout its vast and storied history.

Make sure you have plenty of tasty snacks at your fingertips while watching Stanley as he does his thing. If not, be prepared to raid your kitchen cupboards the moment the credits start to roll.