Picture this. Stanley Tucci is in the basement. Whose, you ask? Yours, probably – but now is not the time to ask questions. The nose-wrinkling smell of damp hangs in the darkness. Squinting, you can just about make out rows of Mason jars filled with pickled things flanking the entrance. As each tentative foot creaks down the stairs, your eyes struggle to adjust. There he is. Huddled over an aluminium tub at the far end of the room, sleeves rolled up, burly Tucci arms making a repeated wringing motion.
There is red. Everywhere. Dangling objects loom suddenly from a wooden beam overhead and your heart stops.
Suddenly, this aroma. The tartness of tomato and basil intermingling fills the nostrils and the hanging curiosities reveal themselves to be homemade salami and waxy bundles of provolone cheese. Yes. By candlelight, the gorgeous, the one and only Stanley Tucci is elbow-deep in his family recipe tomato sauce, hand-wringing tomatoes through a white pillowcase and lovingly ladling up glass bottles to the brim. For you. Ebullient, he waves you over, a glass of Tempranillo next to the tub. It’s pasta for dinner tonight.
Now, shed a tear for the fact that this vision will never be anything but a thirsty, thirsty dream for us mere mortals (unless you are in fact Tucci’s IRL wife, literary agent Felicity Blunt). But for those absolutely frenzied by the thought of the aforementioned scene, it is just one of the lush memories, recipes, titbits and anecdotes included in the actor’s intimate new memoir, Taste: My Life Through Food. In it, he dissects his life, family and biggest roles, all in reference to his first love: food. It is a must for all Tucci-ites, affording us an even more thorough deep dive into our favourite parasocial relationship. But let’s start at the root of the obsession.
Long have we adored Stanley Tucci. His hotness is well established and accepted by all. But as handsome, hilarious and erudite as he is (which the book serves only to confirm), unlike the many famous acting Chrises – Evans, Hemsworth, Pine et al – Tucci’s career has not been defined by his looks. In the league of himbo internet boyfriends, there is something sturdier to him. Something implacably attractive exudes from his sensitive, bespectacled being – a je ne sais quoi – which also means his appeal is universal and no one is immune to his charms.
"Kind eyes! Invigorating smile!" proclaims one friend in a conversation where we try to pinpoint his hotness.
Another adds: "The man can shake a cocktail!" (Tucci reached god-tier level of hotness over lockdown when he showed James Corden how to make a Negroni.)
"He seems confident… A family man?" I’ve asked my boyfriend. His mouth is suddenly sand, not quite sure what he’s being asked. "Well travelled?"
In fact, if you ask most living, breathing people, they will tell you the various points at which they fell irreversibly in love.
Was it in iconic foodie film Big Night – which Tucci also co-wrote and co-directed – where he and Tony Shalhoub passionately construct a monstrous pasta cake (also known as a Timpano)? Was it The Devil Wears Prada, where, with a ring the size of an apricot and a pair of Manolo Blahnik slingbacks dangling from his fingers, he helps Anne Hathaway meet her sartorial potential? Perhaps it was Julie & Julia, where he plays the most supportive husband in the world to legendary chef Julia Child, yielding the iconic line with enough sincerity to soften the most hardened heart: "You are the butter to my bread and the breath to my life." Or Easy A, in which he is the perfect, wry-humoured dad to Emma Stone and wears shirts so well fitting that, frankly, they should be illegal. Could it have been Shall We Dance, where he discards his dishevelled wig and embraces the beautiful baldness of his naked head while wearing a flared sequin catsuit and dances the cha-cha-cha with wild abandon?
Whenever the moment was, Tucci gives us juicy behind-the-scenes intel on many of these canonical roles in his new book, the pages emitting such a warm, soul-soothing cosiness it’s basically like plonking yourself next to the man on the sofa and letting him hand-feed you a bowl of pasta. Here are some of the key things we learned.
He actually makes the Timpano from Big Night every year for Christmas
Yes, that big, heaving drum of pasta, ragù, salami, cheeses, hard-boiled eggs and meatballs gets built every year, to the ire of his wife. The very detailed, five-page recipe is supplied – to be attempted come December while inebriated on Tucci Negronis.
He once ate something resembling “horse cock” with Meryl Streep
While doing press for Julie & Julia in Normandy, the cast – wanting to demonstrate their cultural curiosity – ordered the regional andouillette sausage, with hilarious results. Google it.
The most romantic evening he’s ever had was spent plucking a pheasant with his wife
In the early days of falling in love with his wife, Felicity Blunt, food was their connector. One morning, after being gifted a couple of pheasants by Michelin-starred chef Brett Graham, the pair sat in their dressing gowns preparing the birds. “First of all, if you’re a food lover, there is always something gratifying about connecting with the vegetable, the fruit, or whatever animal, whether you’ve grown it, raised it, or hunted it, before it becomes your food. But to make that connection and then connect with someone else simultaneously, is exalted, almost spiritual level of food intimacy.”
He served pasta at 1am on his wedding night
Whatever your stance on pasta, there is something either deranged or genius about this decision.
Never, ever, ever cut spaghetti
“When I am privy to this act of sacrilege, in that instant, no matter how charming, intelligent, kind or altruistic the perpetrator is, some of me will hate most of them forever.”
He reflects on his recovery from cancer
The actor was diagnosed with a tumour at the base of his tongue three years ago and he reveals that during radiotherapy, everything tasted like “old wet cardboard but slathered with someone’s excrement.” He talks about the gruelling journey to getting his sense of taste back and how actor and friend Ryan Reynolds had “tears in his eyes” when he accompanied him to the doctor and learned the news he was in remission.
After his life-changing illness, food now eclipses acting
“I must admit that years ago I never thought that my passion and interest in food would come close to eclipsing how I felt about my chosen profession. Acting, directing, cinema and the theatre had always defined me. But after my diagnosis I discovered that eating, drinking, the kitchen and the table now play those roles... Cook. Smell. Taste. Eat. Drink. Share. Repeat as necessary.”
Taste: My Life Through Food is out on October 7th.