A dinner party with a difference
A bunch of seemingly friendly celebrities and a Michelin starred chef, convivially dining in a very stylish Roman home. The shadow of the Campidoglio behind in the distance, soft, warm lights and friendly banter.
This is the setting of each episode of Dinner Club, a recently launched 6 part series on Amazon Prime. But that’s not all. Interspersed with the dinner banter, are snippets of the most obscure, hidden gems of Italy’s regional gastronomy.
Each episode covers a different region. Carlo and the celebrity on rotation travel such region in sometimes odd means of transportation and discover some truly incredible places and people as well as food. They eat, they drink, they cook, they savour. They also laugh, joke, meet people, and let us meet these people. Characthers of an Italy that still very much exists but seldom appears on glossy magazines, sponsored blog posts, main stream movies.
I loved it.
They are pretty big names, mostly actors. Only two women, Sabrina Ferilli and comedian Luciana Littizzetto, grace the table. We then find Diego Abatantuono, the calmest, oldest of the group but also full of brilliant dry humour. Hearthrob Pierfrancesco Favino and fellow thespians Fabio de Luigi and Valerio Mastandrea join in.
Watching them interact over dinner is highly entertaining and – whether the actual case or not – they get along swimmingly over food and their banter is often hilarious, especially when they totally take the mick out of each other (with the typical sexist and occasionally ageist jokes we would all make over a dinner party amongst friends!).
Carlo Cracco is famous on TV in Italy for having been one of the judges of MasterChef Italia. I met him a few years ago at an event in London, but didn’t really spend enough time with him to form an opinion. Until Dinner Club, I had not really warmed to him when I had occasionally stumbled upon MasterChef.
Dinner Club changed it all. Other than a slighly funny tonal inflection (not an accent, but if you speak Italian you might pick up on it), he’s just as funny as his guests and he’s particularly able to deal with flak from some of them too (plenty of swearing from Mastandrea, jibes from Littizzetto, double edged flirting from Ferilli). He even got spat on in one of the episodes.
The regions covered roughly cover geographical areas as well as actual counties. The cinematography is great and the filming is excellent. None of the typical Italian touristy angles, this is pure, raw, real stuff.
- The Po river Delta with Fabio de Luigi on a speedboat
- Puglia and Basilicata with Luciana Littizzetto in a vintage campervan
- Sardegna with Diego Abatantuono in a classic convertible car
- Cilento with Valerio Mastandrea on a bicicle
- Maremma with Sabrina Ferilli in a 4×4 and horse back
- Sicilia with Pierfrancesco Favino in a minimoke
I couldn’t stop laughing when I watched the first episode; so much that my husband couldnt sleep and went to sleep on the sofa!
Some episodes are more fun than others of course; some of the celebrities are also way more entertaining. I found Valerio Mastandrea really quite grumpy (I love his movies!) and it’s a shame because with Carlo he travelled through my Cilento, visiting some tiny villages (Fellitto for its famous salami, Roscigno Vecchia) and they tasted some of the area’s famous products (the white fig). Mastandrea doesn’t eat anything ‘white’ so he tried and then refused the area’s mozzarella which is possibly the best in Italy. Disappointing!
But some other celebs… oh they were brilliant! I enjoyed Fabio de Luigi’s buying eels and shucking oysters in the Po region, Ferilli’s brave tasting of Maremma’s offal dishes. I couldn’t stop laughing when a very old lady in Sardinia performed a omen ritual over Cracco’s head… and without giving more away, the last episode in sunny Sicily was the icing on the cake (literally almost).
Special mention to the tracks used. Mostly Italian classics, from Gino Paoli to Bruno Lauzi, it is – for us of a certain age – a blast from the past and carrier of happy memories. It’s available on Amazon Music for those with an account.
Overall, I really enjoyed watching Dinner Club. It’s fun, it’s heartwarming and absolutely a must for Italians abroad like myself.