Stanley Tucci is an American actor, director, producer and scriptwriter specialising in “geeky” roles. Born in 1960 in Peekskill, near New York, he began his film and television career in the 1980s and over the next decade, he made his mark in numerous supporting roles and also starred in the legal drama Murder One. He garnered international acclaim with blockbuster films including ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, ‘Julie and Julia’ and ‘Lovely Bones’. His latest screen appearances are in ‘Supernova’, where he falls in love with... Colin Firth, and a cooking documentary for CNN.
You recently featured on the American network CNN in a very ‘appetising’ mini-documentary food series, ‘Searching for Italy’, which is also available on YouTube for those who want to travel from their armchair. For several weeks, you travelled across Italy tasting the specialities of Tuscany, Sicily, Rome, Bologna, Naples and the Amalfi coast. Tell us about the experience...
I come from a family of Italian immigrants and I am very proud of my heritage. Food has always been an obsession for me. When I am at the market, at the dinner table or in the kitchen, all my senses come alive. I have to taste, smell, touch, etc. Basically, I run around all over the place and stick out like a big stain of fresh tomato sauce on a newly starched white napkin! (laughs)
You have also written recipe books...
Some of the recipes come from my grandparents, who were born in Calabria. I remember that we didn't often go out to restaurants because our family was broke. So we would stay at home and prepare simple, cheap meals with really tasty fresh produce. Like Uova fra diavolo - poached eggs in a marinara sauce. Every Friday evening my father would make us this for dinner. Honestly, I could have eaten it every day!
And your first connection with wine?
My father had a big wine press in his basement. Beside it were also two old oak barrels. Every year he made his own wine which we drank from small glasses. I remember him decanting his wine into a carafe that dated back to the 1920s!
What is your favourite wine?
Marchesa Gavi Gold Label, from Piedmont. I also enjoy wines from Tuscany and Sardinia. Chianti never lets you down either. I also like Californian Chardonnays and wines from Burgundy. I have nothing against Argentinean reds and as far as whites go, I tend to serve myself glasses of Pinot Grigio and Chablis.
Was there one wine, above all the others, that pleasantly surprised your discerning palate during filming of your food documentary?
In the episode focusing on Sicily, I was lucky enough to meet Arianna Occhipinti, a Nero d'Avola organic winegrower who specialises in Frappato. She runs a small estate and her wines are very traditional and made with love, which you can feel! Sicily is the poorest region in Italy and is unfortunately not very well known yet for the quality of its wines, despite the fact that they are remarkable.
What was the main thing you learnt when you hosted your ‘Vine Talk’ show?
The aim of the programme was to promote wine from different aspects. How to buy it, choose it, taste it, uncork it, savour it and above all make people understand that this is not just a world for connoisseurs. Every week, we would present a new wine region and taste wines blind. We’d also invite a celebrity and a sommelier so that they could share their common passion with us!
Are you the type to collect outstanding vintages in a firmly locked cellar?
I'm not a big spender when it comes to buying wine. I come from a family that used to live from hand to mouth. I understand the value of money only too well. Saying that, I can buy good wines but when I do, I don't have the patience to wait. I uncork them as soon as I get a good opportunity to do so!
Interview by Frank Rousseau – Our correspondent in the United States
Photographs: all rights reserved