Generation Chefs

“ARE YOU HUNGRY?” – Stanley Tucci’s Taste: My Life Through Food

Article by Lorie Kim

“Are you hungry?” asked Stanley Tucci’s mother when he was a little boy.

Which one of us fully grown people wouldn’t want to hearken back to the days of being a six-year old kid being asked this simple yet incredibly loving question as this? Is there anything better than someone who cooks a home-made meal for us? Anything? Perhaps a few but not many.


Please do not read this book when you’re hungry as you will not advance a single page. My advice is that you have a fully satisfied belly – then curl up. Grab some stickies to mark the recipes you’d like to make one day and mark them accordingly while allotting a bit of break time to chuckle. I guarantee that you will chuckle throughout the book and believe me, Stanley doesn’t ease into it.

It’s hard not to feel a tinge of envy when learning about the various phases of his life in his memoir satiated with (as Stanley would say: “Pun intended and achieved”) intimate stories of his free playing days outdoors to his struggles obtaining food during his quest for acting gigs in New York. The envy comes, not because he is a famous actor or that he tasted world cuisines throughout his travels but because it’s hard to imagine that Stanley Tucci never said the words “mom, what’s for dinner?” on any given day anytime he felt like it when he was a child. That’s luck – pure luck – that he was born to a mother like her.

Being an Italian-American dad, he pitched in with his cooking skills to give his wife a break on weekends. How utterly wonderful. Who in this world doesn’t want to come home and say to whoever is home ‘what’s for dinner?’ I’d give anything to say that phrase just once in my life.

The book was published in 2021 and became an instant NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
The book was published in 2021 and became an instant NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A delightful read interspersed with family recipes and tips on Italian cooking that none of us bother to get educated on such as the importance of pasta shape pairing with the sauce and how cutting spaghetti may land you under a guillotine. Mr. Tucci will never forgive you or worse yet, he may deprive us of seeing him on screen by boycotting acting altogether just because some fully grown person cut their spaghetti. So do not do it – please. Even my 17-year-old son is a fan of his films so please spare all of us.

Stanley Tucci’s mother and her devotion to her family expressed through homemade meals is perhaps a time gone by as part of the norm practiced amongst Italian-American immigrants who ate vegetables grown in their own garden even while living in New York. One has difficulty imagining now, how a mother of three children working full time cooked every night and made school lunch for her children, albeit due to financial constraints combined with the disastrous cafeteria lunch menus (I can attest to this, having eaten public school lunches in the early 80’s in California under the ‘Reduced Lunch’ program for poor kids and having to suffer through soggy hamburgers left over from the day before).

Back to Stanley: While other kids ate marshmallow cream flanked by 2 slices of white bread, Stanley went to school with something quite different. I’ll let our readers discover little Stanley’s special lunch box. I’m not about to give this special information away. However, the previous Alert! warning remains apropos here.

When packaged meals are delivered to our front door without the need to even look at the one who brought the dinner, it begs the question if we as a society are heading in the right direction. Could we turn back time and live next door to the Tucci’s hoping to be invited for dinner?

There is no doubt that Stanley loves all things food, not only for the taste but the meaning that it contains. The sense of who Stanley became can be traced back to the boy who played freely outdoors and ate wonderful home cooked meals. He may not have known at that time just how joyous this temporary moment was and how that would be carried inside of him throughout his work and family life and with those who happen to cross paths with him. One of the notable recipes from Tucci’s childhood is that of the timpano, the Tucci family classic detailed step-by-step.

The Tucci Timpano: Jay Rayner and Stanley Tucci reveal the baked timpano. Photograph: Sophia Spring/The Observer
The Tucci Timpano: Jay Rayner and Stanley Tucci reveal the baked timpano. Photograph: Sophia Spring/The Observer

It sure looks intimidating. This daunting recipe – if one has the guts – can attempt it but don’t count on me. Spaghetti bottarga is already adventurous enough although I do have a bottarga in the fridge – don’t ask me why. But I can tell you that bottarga tastes much better in Sardinia around 9 at night after the scorching summer sun has set and I hear a local band playing old Italian songs. I agree with Mr. Tucci: “I’ve rained it upon eggs, shrimp risotto, and spaghetti alle vongole and all are delicious”. My personal favorite is the spaghetti alle vongole (clams) with bottarga of course.

Spaghetti alle Vongole e Bottarga- a Sardinian specialty
Spaghetti alle Vongole e Bottarga- a Sardinian specialty

Horrible things have happened to his life but I gather from his reflections on his life (still going strong) is that he is aware of the important things in life. A true survivor who hasn’t gone bitter or jaded; this is an easy read on a Sunday afternoon, especially with Stanley’s dry (and wry) sense of humor.

May I recommend that you accompany this reading with his viral Negroni recipe? He has commanded that you “Sit down. Drink it” after you’ve prepared it. Sounds divine to me.


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