Best moments from Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy season 2

Stanley Tucci at a picnic table in Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy
(Image credit: Matt Holyoak for CNN)

With travelling having been at a minimum these last couple of years, Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy has scratched that globe-trotting itch with the popular actor guiding us through beautiful Italian cities and regions, detailing their rich history, culture, food and more. The show is finally back with its second season and proving once again why it is such a delight.

If we’re going to complain it’s that we’re only getting four episodes of Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy in season 2, but sojourns to Venice, Piedmont, Umbria and, in a change of pace, exploring the Italian community in London, there’s plenty to enjoy.

Here are some of What to Watch’s favorite moments from Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy season 2 (so far).

Even Stanley Tucci gets lost

One of the first stops for Stanley Tucci in episode 1 in Venice is to the All’Arco wine shop, which famously makes Cicchetti (described as meals you can eat standing up, as delicious flavors are stacked on a small piece of bread). Tucci says he is told the shop is just a two minute walk from Venice’s Rialto bridge, but it takes him a bit longer!

Using a montage showing him going through Venetian alleys, he finally makes it… but saying it took him two hours to find this hidden gem. It’s nice to know that Tucci can be like so many of us other tourists and get lost in a foreign place (while for some reason refusing to ask for directions). 

Cooking with ink

Considering Venice is literally a city on the water, you’d expect the seafood to be incredible. To prove it, Tucci meets up with an chef Gianni Scappin to make risotto nero di seppia, aka a "black risotto" dish. This requires going to the Rialto Fish Market, which Tucci says has been active for 1,000 years, to get some cuttlefish whose ink is used to give the risotto its coloring. While there, the sellers have a bit of fun with Tucci, trying to put an ink mustache on the star. Unfortunately, the star caught wise to the gentle teasing but was in good humor about it. 

Stanley Tucci on a boat in Venice in Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy

(Image credit: Matt Holyoak for CNN)

A fresh menu

What makes Searching for Italy so much more than a food show is how Tucci and company look to elevate different aspects of things that we may never have initially thought of as part of Italian cuisine. In episode 1 that includes Cannaregio in Venice, which is founded by and staffed by refugees from different countries, all bringing recipes from home that they use to differentiate themselves and add to what makes up Italy’s incredible food community. The story of owner Hamed Ahmadi is inspiring and from the look on Tucci’s face, the food deserves its spot among the best that Venice has to offer. 

A lesson in Italian history

Tucci always finds ways to blend food and Italian history in the show, but the example from episode 2 is a standout. Visiting the Piedmont region, it is explained that Camillo Benso, the Count di Cavour, was a leader at the time of Italian unification in the 19th century, specifically in Turin, which was briefly Italy’s capital. But he wouldn’t let running a newly unified Italy deter him from having a good meal.

A local historian explains Cavour’s favorite restaurant was across the street from the capital building in Turin (not a coincidence) and that he would often spend his time there and have an assistant wave a white handkerchief should he be needed back. The restaurant continues to operate today as Del Cambio and pays homage to Cavour by cooking the traditional version of one of his favorite dishes consisting of veal brain, kidneys, testicles and the middle of the spine (apparently it’s much better than it sounds!).

Leaders of the slow food movement

Another bit of history from Tucci in episode 2 is about the slow food movement. He says it was kickstarted to counter the booming fast food industry. We get to meet a memorable pair of slow food's champions.

The first is a professor at a university in the Piedmont region that specializes slow food (and who spectacularly dons a cape), but the star is Piola de Celso restaurant owner and chef, Elisabetta Chiantello. Elisabetta’s passion and energy for what she does bursts off the screen as she makes bagna cauda, an anchovy and garlic dipping sauce, with old school tools and playfully banters with Tucci. Easily one of the more memorable guests that has appeared on the show.

The hunt for truffles 

Igor Bianchi and Stanley Tucci in the woods in Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy season 2

(Image credit: Matt Holyoak for CNN)

People are willing to pay top dollar for truffles it appears. In episode 2, Tucci attends a white truffle auction where a 2 pound white truffle is sold for €100,000 (about $105,344) to buyers in Hong Kong, even after it is accidentally dropped on the floor by the auctioneer. Tucci then tries to strike white gold himself by hanging out with a truffle hunter, Igor Biacnhi, the "King of Truffles," and his dogs (he is not a fan of using pigs, unlike Nicolas Cage in Pig, apparently). They don’t find any, but it is fascinating to see the craze and difficult nature for this delicacy.

We may have found Stanley Tucci's replacement

Stanley Tucci talks with a chef in Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy

Chef Giorgio Barchiesi and Stanley Tucci (Image credit: Matt Holyoak for CNN)

If Stanley Tucci ever needs a day off from his travels throughout Italy and dining on incredible food (yeah, right), we now know who should be his first call as a substitute. In the this episode of Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy season 2 in Umbria, we meet chef Giorgio Barchiesi, aka "Big George." Barchiesi actually has his own cooking TV show in Italy and it showed. He was magnetic, even to the point where Tucci admits he started to feel like a guest rather than the host. As far as what Big George was cooking (Maialino in porchetta style), it was so good that Tucci literally told the crew to stop filming and try the delicious pork dish.

Home cooking

In the fourth episode of season 2, Stanley Tucci shows off the Italian food scene in London, which has served as his home for the last 10 years. Not only does Tucci show many great Italian restaurants in his adopted city, but he even takes us inside his home where he and chef Gennaro Contaldo do some home cooking.

Contaldo became a famous chef in London thanks to his own TV show Two Greedy Italians and he shows off his skill here by making what appears to be a simple pasta dish of tagliolini with Amalfi lemon and London rocket. However, the best things often come in simple packages, as Tucci is left speechless by the dish and he asks Contaldo to quickly cook up another round for Tucci's wife, Felicity. She is similarly wowed by the dish, asking if Contaldo wants to move in.

Mamma's cooking

Stanley Tucci pours wine into a dish in Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy

(Image credit: CNN)

While a lot of people have a fondness for their mother's cooking, perhaps that isn't more true than with Italians. In the London episode, a handful of mamma's took center stage.

First, Angela Hartnett brought Tucci to her home to make a traditional Italian Christmas dish, anolini in brodo, with her family joining them, including her mother. Even though Hartnett has a Michelin star, she is not above her mother offering a few tips, as she tells her daughter the dish could use a bit more salt after giving it a quick taste.

One London restaurant has taken the idea of longing for mamma's cooking to a whole new level, as La Mia Mamma in Chelsea is staffed by a rotating group of Italian mother's who immigrated to UK and who change the menu every month or so to offer their own favorite recipes from their home region. Many weren't cooks back in Italy, but have found a new passion sharing their culture, which they proudly tout.

Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy season 2 episodes are currently available to watch on CNNgo.

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Peaky Blinders, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Saturday Night Live, Only Murders in the Building and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.