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Dinner With The Tuccis

Stanley Tucci’s Italian-inspired cookbook was a family affair

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Dark wood tables and exposed brick walls created a warm, inviting atmosphere at the Soho House in New York City on Tuesday night, where chefs Andrea Cavaliere and German Lucarelli served up Stanley Tucci’s favorite recipes. 

“We are eating very well tonight because of my family,” the Hunger Games actor explained. But there was another reason Tucci’s family (including his wife Felicity Blunt) and friends (such as Brooke Shields, Aidan Quinn and Patricia Clarkson) gathered to enjoy Cherry Noir cocktails, Venetian salted cod pâté, a light and airy frittata con peperino and timpano: The Tucci Cookbook, which he was inspired to create after collaborating with French-trained Italian chef Gianni Scappin on the classic foodie film Big Night in 1996. “We used the film as a way to have these recipes down and to share them,” he said.

But the book was not a solo endeavor and bares his family name for a reason, “They are the authors of this cookbook,” Tucci told the diners, whose tickets benefited the Food Bank for New York City, where he serves as a board member, “I pretend it’s my cookbook.”

With nearly 200 recipes and wine pairings, the book not only features the best of northern and southern Italian cuisine it also includes a recipe for timpano, the main course Tucci, himself, introduced. “You’re about to eat timpano, which is an ancient dish,” he explained, following with a laugh, “It was cooked many years ago, but it’s still good.” Timpano is the kind of dish you have to see and taste to believe; imagine one gigantic, golden pie filled to the brim with just about every hearty ingredient you can think of — salami, chunks of provolone cheese, hard-boiled eggs, meatballs, pasta and tomato sauce wrapped up in pie dough.

The timpano recipe served that evening, Tucci explained, came from Calabria, a southern region of Italy where his family is from. But cooking – and even food – didn’t always come easily for Tucci. It wasn’t until he was a senior in college that he developed his first signature dish. “The first thing I ever really cooked was pasta with beans,” he said. “It didn’t turn out quite right, but I’m much better now. I remember buying pasta and my parents go ‘Why did you buy that pasta?’ I said, ‘It was less expensive.’” And thus began Tucci’s education with food. “That was the beginning of the lessons,” he laughed.

Tucci has certainly come a long way from that pasta faux pas (today his go-to meal is pasta aoli with steak and salad). Although he has stayed true to his southern Italian roots – and continues to reference The Tucci Cookbook in his daily life – he now claims he’s open to eating just about anything, with only one exception. “I don’t care for cilantro,” he coyly admitted, “Other than that I’d be hard pressed to say there is something out there I don’t like.”