Stanley Tucci is known for starring in food-centered films like Big Night and Julie and Julia. In Taste, he writes about how his love of food has shaped his relationships and career. His writing style is informal and personal, and I read the entire book with Tucci’s voice in my head. If you have watched Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy on CNN, you know that Tucci has a friendly warmth about him. This food-based memoir is full of that warmth. He is equal parts debonair movie star and perfectly normal American dad who puns frequently and is proud of every last pun.
A second-generation Italian-American, Tucci grew up eating traditional Italian foods. He talks of his mother’s recipes, family gatherings, and his grandfather’s homemade wine. While he acknowledges how lucky he was to grow up with strong culinary traditions, he also recounts how he and his sisters coveted American foods like peanut butter and Velveeta. As the daughter of immigrant parents, I understood this sentiment very well, and at times, Tucci’s family stories felt like my family stories. There was a humorous story of his grandmother forcing a large bag of her garden tomatoes on Tucci’s resistant mother that mirrors a recurring conversation my mom and I have every time I visit her in August when my parents’ tomato gardens are at their peak.
He talks about being a struggling actor in a pre-gentrification in NYC, and I am now mourning a New York City that I never got a chance to know, before Starbucks took over every city block. He writes of Carnegie Deli with great fondness and of now-defunct Cuban-Chinese restaurants. As someone who grew up with Ukrainian-Paraguayan cuisine (yes, you are reading that correctly), I was particularly intrigued by the notion of Cuban-Chinese cuisine. As he grows more successful, Tucci’s reports of food become more sophisticated. He relates a story of being taken out for lunch by Italian film legend, Marcello Mastroianni, and of another lunch where he and Meryl Streep experience some language barriers when reading the menu. Near the end of the memoir, Tucci returns to telling family stories, but this time he is talking about raising three young adults and two small children with his wife, Felicity, while battling cancer and later sheltering in place during COVID.
Pour yourself a glass of wine or fix a martini (recipe on page 201; Tucci will judge you if you make it incorrectly), and enjoy the story. I would recommend Taste to foodies, memoir fans, and film lovers. People offended by swearing should probably pass on this.
Book Club Menu:
I get to cheat on this month’s book club menu since Taste includes recipes. The mocktail recipe is the only one that is my own, as there should always be a beverage option for book club members who either can’t or don’t drink alcohol.
Cocktail: A Christmas Cocktail (p 120)
Mocktail: A Christmas Mocktail (recipe below)
Tomato Salad (p. 46)
For vegetarian option: Pasta con Aglio e Olio (p 17) OR
For omnivore option: Ragù Tucci with Rigatoni or Penne (p 71)
If serving wine with your main course, Pasta con Aglio e Olio pairs with either Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc and the Ragu will pair with Sangiovese or Barbera.
Biscotti with coffee and tea
- 4 oz cranberry juice
- 4 oz ginger kombucha
- Garnish: rosemary sprig, pomegranate arils
Pour cranberry juice into an old fashioned glass filled with ice. Top with kombucha. Garnish with a rosemary sprig and pomegranate arils.