“This is a really nice boat!” he shouts to no one in particular, over the crashing waves of Venice’s Grand Canal. Yes, it’s a fine boat. It’s a big fat shiny boat, in fact—probably because he is Stanley Tucci, a big celebrity, working on the sophomore season of his beloved CNN show. Of course he’s got a “really nice boat.” Why wouldn’t he?
But it’s internet sensation, martini mastermind Stanley Tucci, the sweetest damn man there is. Of course he’s going to have a silly little quip about a silly little boat. The man takes nothing for granted, as displayed best by the new season of the CNN travel show. Armed with an elementary understanding of the Italian language and a whole piazza of Italian amici, Tucci embraces every piping hot dish of Italian cuisine and ferries it straight to his heart.
The basic concept of the series remains the same in Season 2: Tucci travels to regions, or sometimes just cities, all over Italy to try their cuisine and learn their foodways. This results in a handful of charming reactions from the host—Tucci-isms, if you will—which range from “SALTY!” to, simply, “Ah. Wine.” So far, the legend has visited Venice, and is set to head to Umbria, Piedmont, and London (you know, that secret city in Italy) in weeks to come.
If you threw all of Tucci’s food reactions into a word cloud, the quotes that would stick out the most would be “Oh my God.” and “Really good!” and “Delicious.” Simple—no frills, rarely ever any actual description of the food apart from listing off the actual ingredients, but enthralling. He’s always enthused, never upset with what’s served, but constantly surprised. Who knew this Michelin-starred restaurant would serve a killer dish? For the sake of brevity, we’ll cut those one-liners. Maybe someone can make a fan-cam instead.
So, because I could watch this man eat a fried toenail and still nod in agreement, here’s a list of the very best Tucci-isms from Season 2 of Searching for Italy. Share them with your Italian friends and family, incorporate them into your own culinary vernacular, or just revel at the whimsy. The only thing better than eating a fat plate of pasta? Watching Stanley Tucci wolf it all down.
Episode 1 — Veneto
Tucci bobbles around in boats, gondolas, and islands in and around the Venice area. Highlights include: lots of fish, a visit with Big Night food trainer Gianni Scappin, and a hunting dog who swims for ducks.
As Tucci shoves a cicchetti loaded with fish into his mouth, he looks towards the camera. “Sorry, it’s not very attractive,” he says, a little baccalà mantecato dripping down his chin.
A fishmonger holds up a little squid ink sac that looks like, uh, male genitals. “It looks like a pearl!” Tucci shouts, innocent as ever. “Like a precious pearl.”
Chomping on some duck, Tucci says, “Mm. Yeah. OK, I’d eat that,” as if he wasn’t already eating it.
As he holds a glass of wine the size of his face up to his lips, Tucci glugs a bit. “That’s amazing, it’s really fresh,” he says. Then, narrating: “And, understandably, not inexpensive.”
A few beats later, he says drinking that same glass of wine is “literally like licking a rock.” Yum?
While Tucci tries his first bite of sea asparagus, he’s flabbergasted by the flavor. “SALTY!” he wheezes. In Italian, now calmer: “Sale.” (Salt.)
“Stop it,” Tucci says as a Michelin-starred chef tops his pasta with a gold leaf, teasing like a flirt would.
Episode 2 — Umbria
Tucci takes to the rolling hills of Umbria, where pork is king and a seven-months-pregnant boar hunter is queen. Highlights include: a visit to Supernova co-star Colin Firth’s brothers-in-law’s serene estate, donkey testicles, and Italy’s own famed food TV show host, Giorgio Barchiesi.
Tucci’s pork pal opens up a glass of wine and leans the cork over to him for a whiff. “Ah, vino,” Tucci says.
There’s a lot of pork in this episode, for the record. As Tucci tastes one of the first bites of pig, he lets out a snort. “Non posso parlare,” he says, which translates to, “I can’t speak!”
Right after that first taste, he shouts, “Long live the pig!” Then, he speaks to the camera: “You guys should stop filming and just eat,” he says. He waves his white flag, a napkin. “I surrender. Literally, I surrender to the pork.”
After eating some fresh boar pasta, Tucci is left speechless. He declares it perfect before embracing the chef, giving her the biggest hug of her life.
As Tucci chomps on a donkey’s testicle, he yelps, “Wow,” delighted. “That’s literally some of the best…” he continues, trailing off.
“QUESTA PASTA!” (THIS PASTA!) Tucci shouts after eating another porky pasta. He then asks the chefs to move in, he’s so enamored.
Tucci shoves handfuls of mustard wasabi petals into his mouth, but a few leaves fall out. “I don’t know if I can eat that,” he says, though he’s still smiling that big grin of his.
EPISODE 3 — PIEDMONT
Not even nearing exhaustion, Tucci rounds out his journey through Italy in Piedmont, where he hunts for truffles and, once again, encounters some form of testicles. Highlights include: truffle hunting pups, coffee risotto, and a cross over the Swiss border.
Tucci is served Piedmont’s finest foie gras. “Wow,” he says, putting down his fork and knife and facing directly towards the camera as if he were in Fleabag. “I don’t have anything to say.”
“I was afraid of the testicles,” Tucci says just a minute later, after tasting some rooster testicle ragu, “but now I’m not.”
Now, onto the coffee risotto, which stuns Tucci. “Goddammit!” he exclaims. “How come I’ve never met you before? My whole life, wasted.”
As a winemaker introduces her vat of berries to Tucci, he’s shocked that it’s fermenting. “It’s alive! Wow,” he says. “I’d like to have this in my home.”
Then, after trying that wine, he talks about it for a mere 15 seconds. “That’s the longest description of wine anyone’s ever made, and I’m really sorry,” he says, correcting himself. “I’ll just say it’s pretty good.”
When Tucci and his guide cross over the Swiss border, they try génépi, an alcohol with “healing properties.” He’s not prepared for the taste. “Woah! Uffa,” he yells, sounding like someone falling down a flight of stairs.
EPISODE 4 — LONDON
Our last stop on the Searching for Italy tour goes a little more global, sending Tucci to the British capital to explore the Italian food that’s been brought to the island. Highlights include: Tucci continues with his silly attempt of the Italian language in an English-speaking land, a cathedral of food, and hunting for arugula on the side of the road.
As he digs his thumb into a block of soft, spreadable salami. “Look at that,” he says, ripping pieces of prosciutto apart, dropping some in the process. “That’s the way it should be sliced. Look, you can almost see through it.” Tucci then holds the prosciutto up to the camera, creating a sort of meat lens for the audience to see through.
Tucci jiggles some strands of tagliatelle in his fingers. “Why don’t I have one of those?” he says, pointing to the pasta maker. Later, he tries to buy the machine from the creator.
“I don’t even want to talk anymore about it or anything,” Tucci says, once again into the camera, as he eats some lemony pasta. “I just want to eat it.” He loves it so much that he demands to make the dish again (“Quickly!”) so that his wife, Felicity Blunt, can try a heaping forkful.
As he eats brothy tortellini soup, Tucci announces that he’s going to have to make the same dish at Christmas. “But you’ve got a team!” one of the fellows next to him says. “I do,” Tucci responds. “I have so many children.” That’s no problem, though—he’ll get them in an assembly line working on the pasta.
“So simple,” Tucci says after watching a mozzarella-monger take hours to create one small ball of burrata.