Stanley Tucci & How I Lost My Italian Heritage

by Leanne Ogasawara


Stanley Tucci begins his hit TV show Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy, by reminding us that, yes, he is Stanley Tucci. But perhaps more importantly, that he is “Italian on both sides.”

Yeah, yeah, I thought I was Italian too.

Life was so much easier before DNA testing. I mean, in the good old days you could just make up any old story about your family heritage –and who was anyone to contradict you? Seriously, if you told people you were Italian, then you were Italian. Finito. And I actually do have Italian blood. On my grandmother’s side. My grandma’s grandparents on both sides came from Calabria, on the Italian peninsula near the toe of the boot. They could practically see Sicily.

That is where both sides of Tucci’s heritage comes from too. I never realized until recently how many Calabrese found their way to the United States. A huge percentage of all Italian-Americans are Calabrese.

Like Tucci, I even knew their names: Tripodi (classic Calabrese name) for one great-grandparent and Pelicano for the other. Sounds pretty Italian to me.

Never mind that every time I proudly told an Italian from Rome or Milan about my Calabrese heritage they seemed to be stifling the impulse to laugh.

And never mind that I also must have Irish blood in equal portions.

Or so I thought. Read more »