There’s a scene in the 2009 movie Julie & Julia in which Paul Child (Stanley Tucci, 60) asks his wife, the future celebrity cook Julia Child (Meryl Streep, 72), what is it that she really likes to do. “Eat!” she says bluntly, and then they both burst out laughing. Based on his fantastic new memoir, Taste: My Life Through Food, you get a sense that Tucci might have the exact same answer.
Despite an acclaimed acting career that includes four Emmy wins and Tony, Grammy and Oscar nominations, it’s food that truly seems to define the actor’s life, from his Italian American childhood to his CNN travel show Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy. After you devour Tucci’s book, check out these six other delicious moments from his nearly four-decade career.
Watch: Big Night (1996)
Tucci cowrote, codirected and costarred in this sweet comedy about two Italian brothers, Primo (Tony Shalhoub, 67) and Secondo (Tucci), who own a restaurant on the Jersey Shore in the 1950s. Primo is dedicated to serving authentic, un-Americanized Italian cuisine, and the restaurant struggles financially as a result. When the brothers hear that singer and bandleader Louis Prima will drop in for dinner, they spring into action, planning a perfect meal that will hopefully keep the joint afloat. The film is best remembered for the loving preparation of a timpano, an elaborate, drum-shaped baked pasta dish that takes hours to prepare. “Big Night is one of the great food movies,” Roger Ebert wrote at the time. “There is a moment in the movie when a timpano is sliced open, and the audience sighs with simple delight.”
Watch: Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (2002)
Tucci and Edie Falco, 58, starred in this Broadway two-hander by Terrence McNally about the aftermath of a first date between a short-order cook and a waitress who work together at a greasy spoon. Is it a one-night stand, or could the evening blossom into the start of a relationship? While the play received attention for its nudity and frank sexual talk, there’s also something sensual about McNally’s approach to food. At one point, Frankie whips up cold meat loaf sandwiches, and Johnny later cooks a Western omelet as they fight. As David Finkle wrote in his review for Theatermania.com, “The finesse with which Tucci breaks eggs and dices peppers for that omelet, as if he’d spent years wielding knives in a Benihana branch, is only a small part of the command with which he takes over his role.”
Watch it: You can’t watch the play online, but you can see the meat loaf sandwich scene (1:38 mark) on YouTube
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Read: The Tucci Cookbook and The Tucci Table: Cooking With Family and Friends (2012/2014)
Taste isn’t the actor’s first foray into the world of writing books — in fact, Tucci has already published two cookbooks. In 2012, he collaborated with his parents and chef Gianni Scappin (whom he had shadowed when writing Big Night) on The Tucci Cookbook, a collection of 200 recipes and wine pairings, including that famously complicated timpano. Two years later, he wrote The Tucci Table with his wife, Felicity, a literary agent and the sister of his The Devil Wears Prada costar Emily Blunt.
Buy it: The Tucci Cookbook and The Tucci Table: Cooking With Family and Friends on Amazon Prime
Watch: Instagram Negronis (2020)
In April 2020, as we were all adjusting to the new normal, Tucci released a three-minute Instagram tutorial in which he taught viewers how to make a perfect negroni. It’s a simple cocktail (gin, sweet vermouth, Campari and an orange slice) and a simple video (he’s just hanging out in his kitchen with Felicity), but it caught on like wildfire. Captain America himself, Chris Evans, reposted the video with the caption, “I. Love. Stanley. Tucci.” Food & Wine and Bon Appetit wrote about it. The Guardian even published an article entitled “Why is Stanley Tucci making a negroni so hot? I decided to investigate.” More than 1.2 million viewers (and counting) watched the video, and he’s gone on to release a slew of other bartending and cooking lessons, for dishes like “eggs in purgatory” and “11pm marinara and leftover pasta.”
Watch it: The tutorial on Instagram
Watch: Julie & Julia (2009)
In this warmhearted Nora Ephron biopic, Tucci stars as Paul Child, the diplomat husband of Julia Child, opposite his The Devil Wears Prada costar Meryl Streep. Paul gives her a copy of the Larousse Gastronomique cookbook, encourages her to pursue a culinary career, and later writes in a letter to his twin brother, “Julia in front of her stove has the same fascination for me as watching a kettle drummer at the symphony. The oven door opens and shuts so fast, you hardly notice the deft thrust of a spoon as she dips into a casserole and up to her mouth for a taste check like a perfectly timed double beat on the drums.” Food is a common thread throughout their relationship, best summed up by his simple toast to her at a party: “You are the butter to my bread, and the breath to my life.”
Watch: Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy (2021)
Following in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, this six-part travelogue series (with more on the way!) took the Italian American actor all across the boot to learn about regional cooking — and he earned an Emmy for outstanding hosted nonfiction series in the process. Along the way, he dives into the history of pizza in Naples, samples balsamic vinegar in Emilia-Romagna, cooks up pizzoccheri (Lombard buckwheat noodles) in the Alps, and drinks wine created by a groundbreaking female winemaker in Sicily. Be warned: Don’t watch this show hungry!
Nicholas DeRenzo is a contributing writer who covers entertainment and travel. Previously he was executive editor of United Airlines’ Hemispheres magazine and his work has appeared in the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Sunset and New York magazine.