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tv   Stanley Tucci Searching for Italy  CNN  April 30, 2022 8:00pm-9:00pm PDT

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[upbeat music] it's hard to believe that just a few months ago the first
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wave of covid-19 had emptied the streets of naples and italy was in lockdown. thankfully, i've arrived during a brief moment of normality. restaurants are open and masks are not required outside, and we'll be sticking to the local rules. napoli is a truly thrilling city. the second you arrive you're engulfed by a magnificent chaos and there's no point in fighting it. people here do things their own way. take the energy of new york, mix in the gritty elegance of new orleans, add 3,000 years of history and cook it all up in the heat of the world's most famous volcano. that is napoli. i'm stanley tucci. i'm italian on both sides and i'm traveling across italy to discover how the food in each of this country's 20 regions is as unique as the people and their past. this place may be looked down on
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as the poverty-stricken underdog of italy. but the people who live in this region have their own way of doing things. for me, this is our philosophy. this is our style and tradition. they've given the world its favorite food. pizza margarita! just don't forget where it was invented. [upbeat piano music] if pizza was going to be born anywhere, it would be here in naples. the city is hot, fast, and a feast for the senses. naples is situated in campania. it's the unofficial capital of
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the italian south and is even older than rome. it's a region of volcanic landscapes, magical islands and the world-famous amalfi coast. the southern sun nurtures tomatoes that are the envy of the world and out in the hills, buffalo produce the milk for the finest mozzarella. but pizza wasn't born in the lush hills. it came from the darkest, poorest streets of naples and its story combines two of italy's favorite subjects, food and death. >> tv announcer: vesuvius explodes. italy's historical volcano bursts into the most fearsome and devastating eruption at least once in every century, it has heralded disaster. the volcano is this sort of ever-present threat, isn't it? it is. you know, it is on the landscape, you always watch it, and have it in your mind and in your eyes.
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professor elisabetta moro is one of the three million neapolitans who live in the shadow of the mighty volcano. people are obsessed with the possibility of dying because there is a volcano, because there are earthquakes, -because there are epidemics. >> yeah. >> so it's very hard for them. >> life can be tough in this volatile city. it's no wonder everywhere you go in naples you see handmade shrines keeping a light shining for loved ones who have died. this is all over the city you see this. >> yes, they are included in the architecture of the city. you know these are kind of temples of memory, you remember the people of your family or your friends, especially young people who died. >> coming from a southern
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italian family, death was always talked about. i remember my grandmother used to call my mother, my mother would pick up the phone and she'd say -- >> you know who died? >> yeah, exactly! >> that's what it was! >> my grandmother did the same. but it was also a way for feeling alive. elisabetta is showing me the historic heart of the city. for hundreds of years the poorest people in naples were packed into these narrow streets. terrible sanitation meant that life could be snatched at any moment by the brutal epidemic of their age, cholera. >> people really got scared because, you know, it was an epidemic like more or less the covid-19 virus. >> yes. >> so you could transmit it very easily. >> right, right. cholera was spread by water and by food so people here cooked pieces of bread in hot oil. so the frying is simpler. it's simpler, it's easy, you can get a very good point of hygiene because you know, frying really sterilizes everything. it was probably one of the few times in life that frying something might actually be healthy for you. so this is where we're going to get fried pizza?
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alright, ciao. okay, so.. . >> stanley: beautiful. [stanley laughing] you know since a century her family's doing this. for a century? for a century these streets were once full of places like this, but fernanda is now the last of an historic lineage.
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>> stanley: it all puffs up, doesn't it? it's beautiful. >> all right, thank you. >> you're welcome. [laughing] ready? this delicious pocket of history was pizza before pizza was pizza. >> with the pork and the ricotta >> yeah, it's very tasty. >> street vendor: pizza margarita!
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>> as we walk off some of those calories, elisabetta tells me how pizza was born in these streets from quite unpromising beginnings. well, mostly they were selling bread with a little bit of fat on it. sometimes pepper because people were really poor. then at a certain point, people here invented pizza. but for many years it was just a neapolitan taste, a neapolitan dish. because cholera also played a significant role... >> yes it did. >> its attitudes. it did for centuries. [vespa engine] thankfully for us, by the late 19th century, the italian prejudice against naples and its food began to change and elisabetta's taken me to the place where, according to legend, in 1889 the italian queen ordered a pizza that went on to bear her name, the margherita. do you make pizza at home ever? in naples it's almost forbidden. there's no point. the only problem was during lockdown, all the pizzerias were closed. >> that was really bad.
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>> yeah. you know the first day after lockdown, 60,000 pizzas were made same day. really? yes and they were not sufficient because everybody wanted a pizza. >> because they were desperate. >> yeah. first the pizza then the vaccine. in the streets of naples, pizza grew out of one pandemic and sustained the city through another. what was born in a place consumed by death is now a food the entire world finds life-affirming. (elevator ding) ♪ (energetic music) ♪ ♪ ♪ (camera shutters) be ready for any arena in the all-new lx 600. ♪ ♪
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[upbeat trumpet music] in this city of pizza-makers, there is a man whose reputation towers over the
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town like vesuvius. enzo coccia wrote the globally recognized standards on making the best neapolitan pizza in the world and was the first ever pizzaiolo to be recognized by the michelin guide. enzo? the only thing he loves more than pizza is naples itself. [upbeat violin music] >> before he makes me a pizza, the maestro needs to go shopping. and when you're in campania, who
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needs the store when you can go straight to the source? buffalo were brought to work the southern italian land by arab conquerors almost a thousand years ago and early each morning, their milk is turned into the finest mozzarella. this masked man is mimmo la vecchia and he's acknowledged as one of the greatest cheese makers in italy. once this morning's collection of buffalo milk is heated, mimmo adds rennet to separate out the curds and the whey. the curds are chopped and boiling water is added. the result is incredible. it's like he's a magician. do you know what i mean? in italian, "mozzare" means "to cut off" and this ancient process gives the cheese its
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name. the mozzarella then rests in a salt bath for a few hours. unlike other cheeses which get better with age, mozzarella is best eaten fresh. which is great news for me. oh my god! [upbeat guitar music] >> if you're going to make the greatest pizza in naples, once you have the best mozzarella, you need the perfect tomato. there's a place whose name is whispered in awe by pizza fans everywhere from brooklyn to bangkok and enzo is taking me
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there. as a pizza lover, i only ever buy cans of san marzano tomatoes and now i'm heading to the promised land. although i hadn't quite expected it to be a small farm under a freeway. we're meeting enzo's special supplier, uncle vincenzo. behind his rusty gates i'm reminded that here in italy, treasures are to be found in the most unlikely locations. >> i've eaten san marzano tomatoes all around the world, but the bright, balanced flavor of these is like nothing i've
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ever tasted. >> stanley: that's it?
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yeah, no, impossible. yeah. varieties using the san marzano name are grown everywhere from new jersey to new zealand. but only the tomatoes grown right here are fed by the nutrient-rich soil gifted by our old friend looming on the horizon. >> stanley: wow. wow!
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after our little shopping trip, we're back in the city and finally, finally, the maestro is making a pizza for me. mass-produced pizza brands always add sugar, fat and flavorings, but in napoli it's just water, flour, salt, yeast, and a lot of skill. incredible. nice. the crushed san marzanos from uncle vincenzo go on first. next, the creamy nuggets of mozzarella di bufala to counteract the sweet sharpness of the tomatoes. and a final flourish to add saltiness and fragrance. and then, in a matter of moments, food magic happens. >> stanley: incredible.
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oh, my god! thank you. >> mmm! >> is that not perfect? >> it's delicious! perfect, perfect, perfect! pizza making is one tradition we all hope will never die out and that the pizziaoli of naples will always keep the flame of pure, simple perfection burning. in napule. >> in napule. >> in napule.
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[upbeat piano music] so, this isn't what it looks like. let me explain. in this city, it sometimes seems like everyone's making up their own rules, but somehow the place hangs together. i'm meeting the man who tries to keep some order here. chief of the municipal police, captain capuano.
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in true neapolitan style, he wants to explain how it works over a coffee. the captain orders three coffees for the two of us. i figured he just really likes coffee. but paying for one extra is actually a hugely important tradition here in naples. it's called "suspended coffee" and when a person in need shows up, the coffee-seller gives them a free drink that their fellow citizen paid for earlier. cheers. that's nice. the people of naples have unofficial ways of helping each other out that go back centuries.
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they "suspend" essentials like coffee, food and even toys for families that can't afford them. campania is the second-poorest region in italy and community help is the only safety net some people have. when that fails, the powerful neapolitan mafia, here known as the camorra, is only too ready to swoop in. poverty and crime has always been part of life in this city, but in 1960s an experiment to improve things went badly wrong. five miles from the city center, a new world was built. it was called scampia.
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the poorest neapolitans were moved out of those dark slums into futuristic new homes. but the dream quickly turned into a nightmare. the place had neither jobs nor transport and people here were trapped. camorra crime gangs stepped in where the state had failed. drugs were sold on the streets and things got so bad, even the police stayed away. ordinary residents were caught in the middle. more recently, a new chapter in the neighborhood's history began when hundreds of nomadic travelers called the romani people arrived. they came from eastern europe and set up camp under a freeway here. the romani sought a better life in italy despite no access to running water or electricity. all across this neighborhood
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thousands of people like samantha saw their lives going to waste, unfairly labeled as criminals, while the authorities turned their backs. but still, this is napoli and people look out for each other in the most creative ways. >> so, the kitchen was a very powerful instrument to overcome stereotypes but also to create work. >> right. >> we decided to make a small
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revolution through the kitchen. >> in a hut on the edge of scampia, local activist, emma and her friends realized that they had a talented community of neapolitan and romani women, each with unique food traditions and decided to take matters into their own hands. >> in the south we're used to fighting, with or without the institutions. i think this is a very southern italian quality. >> that small idea grew into something astonishing. the hut is long gone. it's now a restaurant and catering company called chiku based in a large, disused building here. samantha, whom i met over at the romani camp, got a job as a cook here. her recipes proved so popular they now star on the menu.
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customers now come to scampia from across the city to taste the delicious fusions of neapolitan and romani food they create here. this place receives no government help, but the success of the social enterprise allows them to also offer childcare and education to all the residents of scampia. this neighborhood still has huge problems, but in the face of unimaginable bleakness the volunteers at chiku have opened up a space to mix food with talent.
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[harp music] the greatest joy of traveling is that sometimes you discover a place by chance and it winds up staying with you for the rest of your life. 14 years ago, my late wife kate and i took a ferry from naples to the island of ischia, just an
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hour away one night we went to a family-run restaurant where they served food that we never expected to have on an island in the gulf of naples. i try to come back whenever i'm lucky enough to have the chance and the family's eldest, silvia, is meeting me at the dock. silvia. ciao. >> welcome. >> welcome to our island. >> nice to see you. >> now we start your adventure. are you ready? >> [laughing] i'm ready! now you may well be thinking, "time for a beautiful drive along the coast for some tasty seafood." but, no. this restaurant stands defiantly away from the seaside crowds, through the woods, and halfway up a mountain. ischia is one of a handful of volcanic islands just off naples. tourists started coming here in the '60s to enjoy the thermal
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waters, but before that it was pirates and foreign armies washing up on the shore. >> welcome. >> so island families chose to live up in the safety of the mountains and instead of catching fish, they caught rabbits. the place is overrun with them and coniglio al'ischitana is famous across italy. in the states we rarely eat rabbit now, but the delicious, lean meat draws the crowds up here to this secluded restaurant. but before we can eat it... >> do you want me to open this? >> yes, please. ...we have to catch it. above the restaurant, wild rabbits are caught with an ingenious and sustainable method the islanders have been using for centuries. a pit is dug close to the rabbit
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hole and tasty food is thrown down to tempt them out. fragrant leaves and berries are specially selected to add flavor to the rabbit's meat. >> the taste of the meat... >> comes through into the meat. ...the natural way. then, all you've got to do is hop in, catch one and, i'll spare you the rest... silvia's little brother, agostino, runs the kitchen at il foccolare. he's brilliant at bringing out the best flavours from the wild game here. he's worked at the finest restaurants in new york and london. but he came home to apply his skills to traditional rustic cooking. the last time i saw him, i ran into him on the streets of new york. >> yeah. >> he was in a bad way. no, i'm kidding. >> that was a long time ago. >> yeah. but i love rabbit, i cook it at home a lot and the thing about rabbit... >> no, no, no, no. because this rabbit is wild.
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this is fine, we put olive oil. garlic, this style and after we start to put rabbit. okay? >> the juice. >> you can smell. >> i like that you put the garlic in as a whole. >> now white wine. >> it's beautiful. >> the ingredients are very simple, tomato, herbs, garlic, white wine, olive oil. >> knowing how to make the best of what you have is vital up here. while the rabbit cooks, i notice something i've never seen before, the nonna of the family, loretta, is showing her grandchildren how to tie tomatoes to local vines.
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today the restaurant is closed, but i'm honored to be invited to family lunch. this is the first time the family has come together since their father passed away earlier this year during lockdown. cheers. >> silvia: a toast! >> silvia: to dad. >> all: to life. >> it's an emotional time, but also one of celebration. oh, my god! as delicious as the food is, traditional cooking like this also tells you the story of a place, how they lived and what was important to them. for as long as anyone can remember, there's been a strict hierarchy to how ischia's rabbit is served.
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>> well, you're very kind. thank you. >> sadly, in this traditional hierarchy, the mother of the family is left with the bony neck and skull. the neck side, right? traditional food like this connects us and makes us part of a bigger story. >> she's my daughter. >> that's why, even today, families across ischia sit down
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[upbeat piano music] as if the awe-inspiring majesty of vesuvius and volcanic islands aren't enough, campania has one final crowning glory. just a half hour outside of naples, some of the most famous and fabled landscape on earth begins, the amalfi coast. it's the backdrop for a thousand romantic movies and once-in-a-lifetime vacations, and home to a restaurant where i had a simple zucchini and pasta dish that honestly, changed my life.
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i've been longing to come back. the family have agreed to show me how it's done. my wife has come to join me and we're in one of the most beautiful places in the world. what could possibly go wrong? [thunder cracks] okay, so there's this once-in-a-decade storm forecast and everyone's taking shelter. [upbeat guitar music] but that doesn't stop the morning delivery coming down from the family's farm up in the hills. every morsel grown by the father, peppino. pride of place this season is the star of my favorite dish, zucchini. the first time i had this dish, i insinuated myself into the kitchen to wheedle out the recipe from peppino's daughter, antonia, who runs the place. we now make spaghetti alla nerano at home every week but it's never as good. chef tomasso is giving me a masterclass and my wife,
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felicity, has even flown in to make sure we get it right. we came here two years ago, the reason we're in this restaurant, right? >> yeah, we've made it everyday. practically everyday, yeah. >> it's a favorite, it's amazing. >> we love this dish. >> everybody always thinks there's garlic in it or onion, but it's just the sweetness of the zucchini. >> i know. >> oh wait, he put it in. >> oh, we missed it. >> sorry. >> we're so unprofessional. >> the chopped zucchini are fried in sunflower oil, and that's our first mistake. we need about three gallons more than we've been using at home. >> it's frustrating to see him do it like this with ease when we've been laboriously frying them in a shallow vessel. >> i know, it's so sad. >> hours of our lives. >> literally hours. >> i know. >> once fried, tomasso leaves the zucchini overnight to soften up. >> with oil and basil?
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>> no. >> i feel like we've been doing a lot wrong. >> all wrong. >> tomasso then heats up the zucchini. >> aw. look at that amazing liquid. >> it's beautiful, yeah. >> and finally, a whole ingredient they didn't even tell us about. see, they put butter. >> so basically-- >> i asked your sister two years ago, i said, "do they put butter?" where is antonia? >> yes, a little bit of butter. >> you didn't tell me that. i'm so upset. no! no! i won't hold it against you. >> you've moved on. >> it's my mistake. >> oh, my god. >> oh, look at that. okay, maybe it wasn't deliberate
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but then why wouldn't you want to keep a recipe this good to yourself? people come here from all around the world just for that. >> yeah. >> that's crazy. >> round of applause. >> it's too exciting. >> oh, my god, look at that! >> and on an induction hob. 20 minutes of ecstasy. mmm! oh, my god. >> even better than i remember. such a simple dish, but you make it so beautifully. one of the best things i've had >> the sea is almost black. had we will jikt be inside eatling carbs. >> any other day, this sun-drenched spot is buzzing with diners thrilled to be eating in one of the most beautiful place onts earth but as the storm clouds roll in to the first time this year, every single one of the expected 300
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customers today has cancelled. by evening, felicity, the film crew, and i are the only guests. rather than allow all this incredible food to if to waste, they are making a feast for all the brave souls still here. while the kitchen team works serenely, the film crew help me capture some views of the famous amalfi coast you won't normally see on a postcard. so gorgeous. i know. until nature sends us all running back inside. like hail the size of lepens just came down. holy shit. i have had dreams about having
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this place all to myself. being brought platters of beans, mushrooms, and olives from the family farm. fried squid, zucchini flowers but i didn't expect it to be in quite these circumstances. here, nature can be cruel but it can also be really, very kind, indeed. stuff. we love stuff. and there's some really great stuff out there. but i doubt that any of us will look back on our lives and think, "i wish i'd bought an even thinner tv, found a lighter light beer, or had an even smarter smartphone." do you think any of us will look back on our lives and regret the things we didn't buy?
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or the places we didn't go? ♪ i'd go the whole wide world ♪ ♪ i'd go the whole wide world ♪ make an impression that lasts with hgtv home by sherwin williams infinity. now more durable to resist scuffs, scratches, and stains. this springfest, find your inspiration at lowe's. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ we believe there's an innovator in all of us. ♪ that's why we build technology that makes it possible for every business... and every person... to come to the table and do more incredible things.
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the storm has passed. the natural order has been restored and it is another heavenly day here on the amalfi coast. i have travel looj to the little town known for one of the most beloved desserts in italy. a blast of southern sunshine in a creamy light cake. or lemon delight. and to make it, you need to head for the hills. yes, incredible. up in the lemon groves above minori i'm meeting the man who
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introduced the unique amalfi lemons to the dessert and became one of the most famous pastry chefs in italy as a result, sal de riso. yeah, no, it's incredible. these lucky lemons are an ancient hybrid of bitter and sweet citrus fruits and the locals put them in everything they can. thank you. cheers. beautiful!
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we head down to sal's shop on the shore where every year thousands of tourists take a break from the natural wonders of the coast to gasp at some man-made culinary marvels. beautiful! at a time when italian desserts were dominated by northern and french creations, sal put the south of italy firmly on the map by capturing the essence of this place in one particular cake, lemon delight. so, we know where the lemons come from but how do you get the delight? oh jesus, alright. of course! cream. three creams, in fact. and for good measure, you fill the cake with cream. you just stick it right in.
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and when the creams are mixed -- you add more cream and more cream and more cream. a splash of lemon liqueur. oh, my god! but how does he get that delicate, smooth coating? >> wow! >> no! really? i thought you'd do something incredibly elegant but, yeah... a little swirl of cream to finish and a pinch of amalfi lemon zest.
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okay, okay. >> okay. >> and i love lemon. i love lemon by that he is like -- >> sal: look how beautiful the sea is here. well, we've had coffee and now dessert, so what better way to end my journey to campania than with a glass of local limoncello made with amalfi lemons, of course . ok. i'm sure most of us have had a shot or three of this with


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