Love Bites: Alone With Carluccio and the Leopard

This month's Love Bites column celebrates the familiar company of an old television favourite in moments of loneliness

Feature by Myrtle Boot | 13 May 2024
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I can’t remember much about 2008 – other than watching the Beijing Olympics and doing a school project on the Tudors – yet it was a year that ignited a lifelong love of mine. One afternoon, my Italophile father showed me a recently aired documentary, Carluccio and the Leopard

Beloved TV chef and restaurateur Antonio Carluccio leads you round Sicily’s back streets, dining on lamb intestine (stigghiola), drinking Marsala wine and schmoozing with us, the viewer. Think the Godfather Part II meets Chef’s Table. Interspersed are excerpts of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s classic novel, The Leopard. The melancholic tale set in 19th century Sicily was inspired by the Lampedusa family’s fall from aristocracy, following the Second World War. Carluccio introduces the island’s politics with the aid of biscuits; a Bourbon for the Bourbons, Garibaldi for Garibaldi and a Ladyfinger for the Kingdom of Savoy. I was immediately engrossed.

After leaving school, I chased my love of Italian art, history and cuisine to a Medieval hill town in Umbria, renting a small room with savings I’d amassed waitressing. With a meagre grasp of the Italian language and in the final throes of my awkward adolescence, I found myself contending with profound loneliness for the first time. 

Aching to emulate passing an afternoon with dad, I returned to this jewel in BBC Four's archive. It seems ironic to have found solace in this slow moving, full-of-heart programme, considering Carluccio’s depressive state while creating it, as well as the loss that pervades Lampedusa’s novel. Yet, I still return to Carluccio and the Leopard at times when the familiar pangs of loneliness creep up on me. It never fails to reaffirm my love of Italy, awakened by my father, and reminds me, whenever that lonesome feeling comes, it’ll pass.