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tv   Stanley Tucci Searching for Italy  CNN  October 30, 2021 6:00pm-7:00pm PDT

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tucci: i have driven in italy quite a bit. but i did say to one guy when i was doing a movie, i said, "it's very interesting, people don't really stop at stop lights that much." and he goes, "no, no, no. the stop light is just a suggestion." there's nowhere on earth quite like tuscany. the land is idyllic, the art is divine and the food is out of this world. >> tucci: oh my god. it just melts in your mouth. [laughs] i'm stanley tucci, i'm fascinated by my italian
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heritage. so, i'm travelling across italy to discover how the food, in each of this countries twenty regions, is as unique as the people and their past. the creations of famous tuscans are known the world over. michelangelo, i think if he were to come back today, he'd be able to walk around florence. it hasn't changed. but it's the hands of the ordinary people... >> chef: we fold it like this. ...that have crafted the incredible food here. it's like a christmas in your mouth, yeah. this is a place built on human ingenuity, mind-boggling riches and an insane amount of bread. i really don't know how they eat this much bread. it's delicious but so hot.
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all great love affairs start somewhere. and for me... my love of italy started right here, in florence, when i was just 12 years old. that's delicious. you have to taste that. like this tartlet filled with rice pudding, i mean, come on. there's always something wonderful to discover in florence. the city is the capital of tuscany. 500 years ago, it was the playground of some of the richest families on earth. in the countryside, they used their land to cultivate the finest produce and cattle and in the city they bankrolled the incredible explosion of art, science and architecture known as the renaissance.
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i love that just about everywhere you turn there's something incredible to see. the chance to actually live among these treasures, even just for a year, lured a young family from suburban new york to florence nearly 50 years ago. it seems that no matter where you are, you can always see that duomo. my family. meet joan and stan tucci. >> stan: i have a photograph of this, do you remember? back in 1972 we moved here because my dad was a high school art teacher taking a year off to follow his dream. >> stan: oh my lord. >> tucci: that's unbelievable. >> stan: all that foreshortening. >> tucci: i know. >> stan: how incredible is that? >> that's incredible. my dad came to study figure drawing and sculpture here. >> tucci: look at it, when you really look and you see that perspective, >> i can't see that far. >> it's staggering. >> it hurts my neck. >> does it? >> yeah. >> lay down.
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at nearly 400 feet, the duomo is still the tallest structure in florence. it took 16 years to build, and to hurry things along the genius architect brunelleschi came up with a way to slash lunch breaks. the workmen, when they were building this, guys had to come down and make their lunch, they would lose all this time. so he found out what they were cooking and he put ovens up there and he would just cook up there, make their lunch up there. >> that doesn't sound... really? >> supposedly. money was tight on our year abroad, so our family lived in slightly less grandeur than this. >> it's very clean. just north of the city center, in this building. not the whole thing, you understand. >> tucci: so our apartment was those four windows? one, two, three, four? that was us on the end there, right? >> yeah. >> joan: it was nice. >> tucci: you'd never travelled. >> joan: no. my parents you know, mom and pop said, "why are you going?" you
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know. >> your parents, who came from italy? >> who came from italy it was florence, not colobraro. >> didn't want you to go to italy. >> but it worked out. it was fun. >> i think everybody ended up getting a great deal out of it. i came for sculpture, certainly joan with all the food, cooking... >> it changed everything. >> it changed everything. >> it changed everything for me, certainly. while my father was studying art, my mom was studying something just as beautiful, the local cuisine. one of these because it's so big? >> no, a little more. little more. it didn't know how to cook when we got married. didn't even know how to boil water. while she was here, my mother was also inspired by the spirit of the renaissance and set out to discover the art of italian cooking. when we lived in florence when everyone was in school, i would learn to make different recipes. i loved it. my mother soon found the key that unlocks so much of italian cooking. a simple combination of carrots, celery, and onions.
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fried up together, it's called 'the soffritto'. >> joan: looking good, what do you think, stan? >> tucci: yeah, it's good. >> joan: throw the tomato in? it's the base of countless italian dishes, including today's offering. a tucci family favorite called 'salsa maria rosa'. >> tucci: now, put some water in it. >> joan: put some water in it, yeah. it's a delicious vegetable sauce and we named it after a beloved neighbor here in florence, who showed mom how to make it all those years ago. in the fine tradition of tuscan home cooking, it's cheap, nutritious and full of tomato. i make it quite often. >> joan: do you? yeah. >> tucci: of course, yeah. the kids love it. but here's the thing, every time my mother comes to visit, which is too often. >> alright. >> alright, anyway. i always go, "can you show me how to make this?", but mine still doesn't turn out the way hers turns out. i don't get it. >> i think that's it, stan. >> i think we did it. >> joan: we did it. >> tucci: we did it. >> joan: nice.
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>> tucci: there we go. >> joan: it's nice to have help. i love it, it's fun. that's my hobby. but i don't have anyone to cook for anymore. i miss my grandchildren. oh don't, don't. but you could move to england. if this series does well... if this series does well. >> which series? >> the one we're shooting right now. >> i got news for ya. the time we shared in florence changed everything for us. finally, you're here. >> yes. after a year spent in the home of the renaissance, we returned to america as a family reborn. it's so delicate, this sauce too, isn't it? you smell the sweetness of the carrot and the butter. our eyes had been opened to some of the greatest treasures on earth and some pretty good food too. it's so good. for me, it was the start of a lifelong love affair with italy.
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>> cheers. >> cheers. thank you, thank you. to florence. >> thank you, cheers.
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1500s. they practically bankrolled the renaissance, paying for artists and scientists like michelangelo and galileo to remake the world. >> tucci: how many days a week are you here? they are the medici. so come in. and i'm going to meet one of them. you are in a place that the florentines call 'the casino dei medici'. and this is a place created as a scientific laboratory the medici wanted all the bright minds in europe to come here and to create new things and to experiment with science, with the arts, with food, with spices. >> so it was like you say a think tank. >> a think tank. >> or a taste tank. >> exactly. expert art restorer daniela murphy is sneaking me in for an audience with the most powerful medici of them all. >> where is he? >> he's right, right there. >> oh my. meet cosimo primo de medici.
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he led the family at their dizzying height in the 1500s. in this fresco undergoing restoration, he's become so powerful he's being crowned grand-duke of tuscany by the pope himself he marries an extremely wealthy woman, the spanish princess eleanor de toledo. not only does she bring a lot of money but she brings a lot of the new spices from the new world. the chocolates, the coffee, everything that is the cuisine. >> that's when the tomato arrived? that's when it arrives more or less in that era then. >> which completely altered italian... >> completely. completely. >> ...cuisine medici money cultivated this city, and the arts and the ideas that grew here in the renaissance changed how we all see the world. but this family also changed the way things taste. it may seem a long way from michelangelo to the greatest t-bone steak you've ever eaten,
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but the medici had a hand in that too. secret. fabio picchi may look like he's fallen out of a renaissance painting, but he's actually a renowned chef, a born and bred florentine, and a master of meat . [ speaking foreign language ] back in the 1500s most people wouldn't even get close to cuts of meat this good. tuscany's famous chianina cattle needed lots of land, that was hugely expensive to run. of course, the medici didn't need to worry about that. >> but why ?
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[ speaking foreign language ] 500 years later, thankfully you don't need to be a grand-duke to enjoy steaks this big, and fabio wants to cook for me tuscany's signature dish, the magnificent bistecca alla fiorentina. >> good. and in case lunch isn't looking worthy enough of, like, ten men, fabio picks out a little appetizer, yet another cut of meat. we head back to the deli fabio owns. thank you. oh, look at that, look at the flowers. he hurries us past any food that hasn't had a pulse. and we head up to his hideaway on the roof, where he does his cooking. oh my god. come on.
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we're starting with the chianina beef, the medici family favorite. the cattle has grazed the tuscan fields for 2000 years. they're of such high quality, that we're eating it raw. [ speaking foreign language ] oh my god. that's the best sushi i've ever had. and now, the main event. [ speaking foreign language ]
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so what he's doing now he says, this is, the secret-- >> fabio: the family secret. >> besides excessive amounts of salt. so the little sort of wisps of olive branch like this in the fire. so you're getting, you're getting the flavor of those olive branches. it gives it a very distinctive taste. during the renaissance the medici lit fires around the city on feast days and handed out roast beef to the common people. most of the time though, they kept this amazing meat for themselves. this one actually comes from the same area where the medici family originated. jesus. this is like no steak i've ever
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eaten. it's both crisp and delicate and the smoke carries the taste of the land. god damn it! it just melts in your mouth. it's what makes the regional cooking of italy about so much more than a tasty meal. [ speaking foreign language ] but the palate is the organ that connects italy . [ speaking foreign language ]
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hills and tells you how the mediterranean sun has blessed the tuscan vineyards for 3000 years. they may even have a thoughtful sip of a world famous tuscan wine like chianti classico. but i'm not going to do that. i'm going on a good old fashioned bar crawl. and when i say 'old fashioned', i mean, like, the renaissance. i'm going to meet a friend of mine, elisabetta, who is a renaissance scholar. she's incredibly boring, but we'll make it through. my god, i can't believe you came. hi. >> how are you? >> how are you? >> good to see you. >> nice to see you too. this little bar has just reintroduced a 500-year-old tradition. in 1559 our old friend the grand-duke cosimo primo de'
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medici decreed that wealthy florentines could sell the wine they produced on their country estates direct from little windows cut into the walls of their city palaces instead of through taverns and inn keepers. >> in the early years, so, you would walk by, and you would buy, not by the glass, but >> you buy a flask. they had a little wooden door, there was a bell. sometimes they would also place things like a flask on top like an advertisement to say, "hey guys, we sell wine." because i remember living here when i was a kid. i'd see these things, i always thought they were for, you know, where you'd
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put a little statue or something. >> yeah, like a tabernacle. >> yeah, exactly. let's order some wine. >> ok let's order some wine. >> how do you. do i pull this? >> ring >> oh, it's a bell. >> will someone come? >> well, they're awfully slow. oh, hi. that's wonderful. hi, how are you? here you go. >> oh, thank you so much. thank you, thank you so much, thank you. that's good. >> that's good. >> i always thought wine taste is better when it comes through a window. >> yeah. you get another wine? >> yeah, oh yeah. >> yeah. >> it seems to be empty. oh, hi. how are you? can i get... five hundred years ago, everyone was encouraged to drink at least a liter of wine a day. not for the winemaker's profit but for health reasons. >> come on. >> let's sit. >> so tell me everything else you know.
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and some people needed to be more healthy than others. >> if you were pregnant you could have one at any time. >> you could have one at any time? >> yeah. >> if you were pregnant. >> yeah. because it was considered... >> my mother did that, no she didn't. really? >> yeah. like a nourishment. >> so, it's sort of the opposite of today? >> yeah, of today. >> okay. >> come on. >> let's go, come on. this could be a disappointingly short wine crawl as bar babae is currently the only functioning wine window in florence. even if there are still 130 or so defunct ones around the city. these little wine windows don't exist anywhere outside of tuscany, another example of renaissance genius. there are too many of them. >> yeah. and then, completely by chance, we come across another. but the sign would be from when? that sign.
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[ speaking foreign language ] >> the little doors of paradise. >> paradise, yeah. >> hi, hi, there you are again. hi, how are you? >> thank you so much. to end of the evening we head off for tuscany's favorite nightcap. the local dessert wine vin santo, the holy wine. >> it's called vin santo because when you drink it, a halo... >> a halo comes? >> a halo is on your head. anyway. tuscan tradition dictates you
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dip almond biscotti, known in italy as cantucci, in your vin santo. >> oh, angle, is that what it means? >> yeah. the result is a sweet, crunchy and heady delight. maybe too heady. anything that ends in tucci, i like. >> that's the end of that episode. >> that's so funny. cantucci, right.
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tuscany may be renowned for incredible meat and fine wines, but this food of the rich is only half the story. the other branch of tuscan cooking grew out of biting poverty and humble ingredients. so, where do you wanna go first. historian leonardo romanelli is taking me to florence's central market to show me the ingredients of what the italians call 'cucina povera', poor food. so, you wanna show me some beans which are a staple of florentine cooking. >> so you have different types. >> for different dishes. >> the best are zolfini. these type of beans are solid but you don't need to put in the
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water before cooking. >> oh really? >> and they taste so... >> you don't have to soak them beforehand? >> no, that's the difference. we h we say [ speaking foreign language ] it means the florentines eat the beans. >> the bean eaters. yeah, because we are using so many different-- oh no, now you're going to mix them all up. the cooking is really, very poor, simple cooking. >> that's true. >> i read that during the renaissance the wealthier people would have meat. whereas the poorer people basically just had beans, some kind of soup and some bread and that was it. >> i have to say, we use what we have. it says something about the character of the tuscany people. we have tuscan bread without salt. >> i know, i remember when i was a kid and we came here and we tasted the bread and i was like, "this is terrible, this is the worst thing i've ever had in my life."
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we never got used to it. seeing these basic ingredients here in the city market is one thing but the only way to truly understand tuscan 'poor food' is to get out of the city and go deep into the endlessly beautiful countryside. isn't that kind of amazing when you look around, is that, i mean, you really don't see a contemporary building for miles. look at that. i'm following the river arno, 50 miles south of florence, to a small village called ponte buriano, where i've been invited to a wheat threshing festival. do i know what threshing of the wheat is? are you kidding? i grew up threshing wheat. now, if memory serves, threshing is where the grains of wheat are shaken loose so they can be ground down to make flour. >> tucci: oh that's the steam, that's the steam engine.
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>> renato: yeah, yeah, yeah. renato viscovo, a local teacher, organizes this event. [ speaking foreign language ] tonight there's a huge feast for the villagers. they're coming together to give thanks for the good times in this region that was once ravaged by famines and where farmers were treated as indentured servants by their oppressive aristocratic landowners, until relatively recently.
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[ speaking foreign language ] this is a world away from the huge steaks and fine wines of florence. the people here cook what they grow and after the toil of harvesting and milling the wheat, what they're left with is bread. [ speaking foreign language ] lots and lots of bread. so here the dough is rising and you cook it in that oven. like it was done many years ago. over in the kitchens, some of the 200 villagers are hard at work preparing the feast, and here too, bread plays a starring role, in pretty much everything. >> tucci: what are they making? [ speaking foreign language ]
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oh, the gander. oh, my god. >> renato: good? >> it's delicious but it's so hot. i go out back and discover wood-fired ovens full of roasting ganders. these male geese were one of the few farm animals that peasants were allowed to keep for themselves and not have to share with their landlords. they were saved for special occasions like weddings and festivals. the smell is incredible. come on.
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you know? really, it's like a christmas in your mouth. yeah, wow. [ speaking foreign language ] j well, you're great cooks. over the centuries, the food of the working people here in the tuscan countryside developed into its own cuisine. it's not as showy as the food in florence but it's one that is just as glorious as the landscape from which it comes.
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my night at the wheat the hres ing festival has reminded me of the epic, insatiable obsession tuscany has with bread. it's a love that has echoed through the ages and there are recipes for every stage of a loaf's life.
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the best ones however are saved for the advanced years, when bread is old and stale. that's when tuscan cooks get really creative. >> tucci: and here we are. >> yeah. >> yeah, it's very exciting. i'm having lunch at the cinghiale bianco, one of my favorite restaurants in florence. so nice to see you. really nice to see you. and i'm joined again by local food expert, professor leonardo romanelli and my friend the art restorer, daniella murphy. >> hi stanley. >> tucci: uh-oh. >> leonardo: oh, hi. >> tucci: hi. this place specializes in 'poor food' and their recipes are so heavenly i'm sure it's where old bread would choose to come and die. marco maselli is the restaurant's owner this is the ribolita. basically, the main ingredients are bread and the black cabbage. and then, we have the tomato and bread soup, pappa al pomodoro. the base is olive oil and garlic, tuscan bread and tomato. it sounds very simple.
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not so simple to prepare. >> tucci: not simple to make. >> marco: to make good. but, in my opinion, the queen of the tuscan dishes is the panzanella. i was hoping that was mine. also, a very simple and 'poor' dish. tuscan bread soaked in vinegar and onion and tomato. >> marco: enjoy. >> tucci: thank you. >> daniella: this panzanella is very good. >> tucci: and this pappa al pomodoro, perfecto. this is one of my favorite things, i make it for my kids, they'll just eat. like it's ice cream, practically. we have good tomato, good olive oil and tuscan bread. maybe not tuscan bread. maybe, ok. [laughs] i have to admit, that i much prefer tuscan bread cooked in dishes like this because on its own it can taste quite bland and that's an understatement. it actually tastes like cardboard. that's because it's unsalted. one theory is that florence refused to pay its arch-rival town of pisa for its salt.
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they were willing to spend money with other people but never give money to pisa. >> leonardo: yeah, especially pisa. >> even today. but of course, this being italy, food rivalries go deep but no-one can quite remember why. another idea is this, if they don't use salt the bread could stay for a long time. >> really, without salt? i didn't know that. >> because, because the salt, the salt... >> the salt breaks it down. >> the salt became brine. for sure the most convincing one is we don't want to give money to the pisani. that's the most convincing. >> i believe that, actually, most of all. for me panzanella is one of the greatest dishes of tuscan poor food. giving brittle old bread new life by using fresh tomatoes to create a surprisingly refreshing salad. knowing my love of food and art, daniela has invited me to a
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festival this evening. a very fancy festival. the one thing that everybody has in common is the food. >> yeah. this event is about as far as you can get from the wheat threshing festival. here florence's richest and most powerful families have gathered, as they have for centuries, to toast the city's new creative talent from chefs and musicians, to artists hoping to follow in the footsteps of da vinci and michelangelo. you are right now in a situation where, more or less 500 years ago, the medici would have done something like this. so we're going to go and have some food now. she knows me too well. really? it's a very sophisticated form
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of panzenella. this looks very different to the rustic bread salad we had for lunch. >> daniella: but it tastes of panzanella. it completely tastes of panzanella. panzanella was what the farmers would eat. and now it's turned into this very sophisticated-- >> tucci: foam. >> foam. you see, the past being rediscovered. >> tucci: it's a little renaissance in a bowl. >> daniella: there's a little renaissance in it and a lot of the future . after tasting this new version of panzanella, we made some enquiries and found the chef who created it. nerina martinelli and her team are just about to open nugolo, a brand-new restaurant that reimagines tuscany's rural food in the heart of the city. >> nerina: the idea around the menu and the dishes that we do is to take traditional dishes,
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traditional recipes and then add something new. all the team of the restaurant, we are all under 30 years old so we are all really young. these young chefs are seeing old tuscan dishes with new eyes. >> nerina: so, the panzanella foam is an example of a traditional tuscan dish. [ speaking foreign language ] >> so farmers. >> basically made with the simplest... >> exactly. >> ...poorest ingredients. onion, tomato, bread, vinegar. >> cucumber, that's it. and normally we do it with old bread. >> tucci: with old bread. right. >> with old bread. >> but you're taking it to another level by foaming it. >> the air inside it becomes very light but still keeping the flavor of the panzanella. >> and we finish with the basil oil. couple of drops. >> i love that you did this.
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>> extra virgin olive oil. >> it's so smart. it's, it's delicious. >> antonio: especially for summer time, it's really fresh. >> yeah, it's like, it really is the perfect appetizer, isn't it. >> exactly. >> exactly. wow, you've taken tomatoes to a whole other place. and the simplest dishes to a whole other level. this simple bread salad has woven its way through tuscan society. from peasants ensuring food doesn't go to waste to florentine aristocrats. it's great to see these definitive tuscan flavors now inspiring a new generation, making exciting food that looks to the future while respecting the land and its history.
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watch your favorite sport, and do it your way, with nba league pass. order today! experience all the nba action with xfinity x1 - track stats and scores while watching your team live. to upgrade, just say nba league pass into your voice remote or go online today. >> the food of rich cities and the poor countryside are the two great pillars of tuscan cuisine. but what unites them is a blast of fresh sea breeze blowing in from tuscany's fabulous coastline. i've come 50 miles west of florence to the city of livorno. in the late 16th century, the medici family turned it into one
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of the great trading ports of italy, where tuscany welcomed the world. chef fabio picchi is never happier than when he's here, with friends, and the prospect of a good meal on the horizon. [ speaking foreign language ] during the renaissance, migrants were actively encouraged to settle in livorno and its reputation as a free-thinking big-hearted city by the sea... >> tucci: oh yeah, nice. ...drew people from across europe and beyond. in the town center, is a tiny place called torteria da gagarin. it opened in 1959 and sells just one thing. known as 'the cake', it's a pancake made from chickpea flour.
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[ speaking foreign language ] the torteria is a local institution, serving up 'the cake' in, what else, a huge hunk of bread. [ speaking foreign language ] >> tucci: this is good, i like this. it's absolutely delicious. and he says that he makes it because he loves it. he makes it at home but he can't make it as good as this. >> fabio: yeah. after that little appetizer, we head up to the house of one of fabio's friends in the hills above the town. he's gathered together the ingredients for a livornese classic. he's making a fish stew.
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[ speaking foreign language ] >> this is a fake cacciucco. >> it's a fake. i need to keep my voice down so the neighbors don't hear but if you're not from livorno, you're not supposed to be making this stew. [ speaking foreign language ] >> tucci: there's always this, sort of, battle between whether you're from here or from there, or from there. whatever you're making. right? you can make the same thing but you can't call it the thing. >> but, but... >> it is maybe a little bit different. cacciucco is a rich fish stew that dates back over 500 years. it was the way livorno's fishermen would use up whatever they hadn't sold that day. this is an imperial cacciucco. he's using this really beautiful fish, he's also using lobster
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which is not a 'poor' fish, obviously. so, he's taking this and amping it up a bit. [ speaking foreign language ] >> like so many italian dishes, the base of fabio's stew is the trusty tomato. it's hard to imagine italian cuisine without tomatoes but scholars only date their arrival to that fortuitous medici marriage to spanish nobility in the 1540s. here in livorno though... sweet. ...legend says that the tomato was brought by newcomers fleeing oppression .
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tomatoes were a popular ingredient among the jews of southern europe. unless you want. as the incredible smell drifts outside fabio's friends take their seats. the density of that flavor is just-- [ speaking foreign language ] >> tucci: wow.
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[applause] fabio may not be from livorno but he can definitely cook a cacciucco. oh, my god. these are ingredients rooted in both the poor fishing community and in livorno's immigrant past. it's a part of tuscany's history on a plate. and fabio's not finished. in true tuscan tradition, creativity is everything and nothing goes to waste, so he whips up a whole second course with the leftover sauce. you have all the flavors of the sea, otherwise what would you do with that. beautiful. a sauce that he had left, it only makes sense. it's the best, best thing in the world.
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[ speaking foreign language ] >> cheers. i feel lucky that my parents followed their hearts and moved us across the world for a year when we were just kids. i saw how the food of both rich and poor came together in this corner of italy that's like nowhere on earth... wow ...and nearly 50 years later, i still keep coming back for more. so we're coming down through calabria, on a train obviously. we're going to sicily, the biggest island in the mediterranean. because there is no bridge, they take the train and put it onto a ferry.


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