141. Searching for Stanley

I have always been a big fan of Stanley Tucci. But I must confess that over these bleak eighteen months of lockdown, he has loomed especially large in my consciousness.

It began with his CNN show Searching for Italy, which was must-see TV at our house and many others. For company, I learned to make Spaghetti alla Nerano that Stanley (as I’ve come to refer to him) likes to serve his guests, and on this current trip, we included some locations, like Emilia-Romagna, that he visited on the show but that we likely would not have gone to otherwise.

Pasta alla Nerano — basically butter, cheese and zucchini

By lucky coincidence, Stanley’s memoir Taste: My Life through Food was released the day we left, so we downloaded the audio version. As we drive through Italy, we hear his voice, talking about his relatives in Calabria, his mother’s and grandmother’s cooking, his own family holiday traditions, and the story behind his movie Big Night.

And adding to the fun, instead of wistfully longing for the dishes he describes, we are able to order them that very evening in whatever trattoria we stop in.

Timpano, which forms the climax of Big Night. It’s stuffed with meat, cheese, eggs and pasta.
We ordered Pasta Bolognese, after hearing Stanley describe his mother’s ragu

It feels like he is an old friend, traveling along with us. I even had the thought — what if he’s in Venice when we are, filming an episode for the next season?

As noted previously, I could count the number of Americans in Venice on two hands, but amazingly, two of those fingers were Bruce and Elizabeth Rubin, who live right around the corner from us in Swarthmore PA. When I commented how rarely we were seeing Americans, they said, “Oh, we saw one – Stanley Tucci — he’s here filming an episode. We saw him in the restaurant where we had dinner last night.”

Wait, what? He’s in Venice??? Just like I imagined? At that point, I went into high alert, staring intently at every slight, middle-aged man with a shaved head (of which there were hundreds), searching for Stanley. I even hung around the Rialto Market twice, knowing it would be a likely destination for his show. (It turns out I was right; he posted a little Instagram video of himself shopping there.)

Rialto Market varieties of mushrooms, exactly Stanley’s kind of thing

But sadly, no luck, no Stanley for me. (Although we did spot Michael Moore, instantly recognizable by his shlumpy appearance and his booming Michigander accent.) So Bruce Rubin, not a shy guy, had to stand in for all of his when he approached Stanley and said, “Mr. Tucci, I know you’re enjoying dinner with your family and friends, but I just have to tell you how much we loved your show. You got us through the pandemic.” Well done, Bruce. I couldn’t have said it better.

Peppers at Rialto Market: too beautiful to eat

2 thoughts on “141. Searching for Stanley

  1. Sorry you didn’t see Stanley, Gigi, but what a terrific post. Hard to believe you wondered if he would be in Venice shooting another episode–and he was! And that you learned that by running into Bruce and Elizabeth, who live right around the corner from you.

    We’re all jealous. You’re having a great vacation and chronicling it so wellce


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