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Bourdain - No Reservations - Tuscany

Worst episode yet. The first half hour was painful to watch. What was with that director guy - I didn't get it - just poor acting or just a bad/boring idea? The whole staged idea of cooking a bad meal seemed so contrived and poorly acted - basically just to get a dig on Jamie Oliver and the like? When they actually got to the food, it turned around, but is Tuscany that boring that they have had to come up with these ill-conceived concepts for filler, or are they just out of ideas?

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  1. Definitely agree............very tacky episode. I wondered afterward why I sat thru the mess. It was toooo , well, just tooooooooo. If that director has illusions of being the new Fellini, he should definitely get another day job. If that had been the first episode of NR I had ever seen, it certainly would have been the last. Surely made AB look hokey.

    1 Reply
    1. re: diobahn

      I have to agree and I am a huge fan of Bourdain and the show. That was plain silly and not at all inspiring.

    2. Only saw the second half (which I liked). Came home at about the point when they went to the butcher. Guess I can delete from TIVO w/out watching the rest! The part I saw impressed me in that it seemed that Bourdain was able to revive his love of cooking. I've had the sense for some time that his love of cooking fell victim to the restaurant burnout, and (if I'm right), it was good to see the joy he felt in preparing that meal. I just wish I'd been there to taste it. If ever I wanted to reach right into the TV and grab some of the grub, it was last night.

      1. Worst. Episode. Ever. Though the stuff at Dario Cecchini's shop was great. They should have subtitled the plaque by the door: "R.I.P. Bistecca Fiorentina, died before its time."

        I don't think the first meal was staged. I think Bourdain seriously had no idea how intolerant Italians are about creativity in classic dishes. The Roman woman badmouthing his pasta made me laugh so hard I had to rewind (but I lived in Rome and è una schifezza" loses something in translation). I'm sure the dish was delicious.

        Way too much of that stuff with Vincenzo Tripodo. Those bits were so awful I thought he was a character played by an actor. I suppose the self-parody is to some extent intentional.

        I suspect they did come up short of solid material and were padding. From Bourdain's voiceover it sounded like they planned to shoot some meat processing but got burned by a Potemkin ranch set up by the government to perpetuate the myth of Tuscan beef. (Buford reported in "Heat" that Cecchini imports his beef.) I worked as a production assistant on a food-related documentary TV series and had a lot of experiences like that.

        Some relevent comments by Buford in this interview:


        7 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Lazy, silly, and a disaster unfolding minute by minute. Might be that Tuscany is so domesticated and so overrun that there's nothing more you can say or show that would not be a tired trope (ah, the uncomplicated winemaker dinners under the pergola!), unless it was to puncture some myths. B looked unconvinced, and well he should have been if he was trying to juice some fresh passion and surprise from so packaged a place. The awful director schtick began to evoke horrid flashbacks of Rooney-Batali. At one point, I was so bored that I was tempted to start counting the minutes wasted by this director sideshow.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I think Tripodo was part of an earlier episode in Sicily, a couple of years ago - not something that stuck in my memory, as this one will not.

            Maybe that's the issue - Tony had nothing new to add, so they tried to make something different out of it. Too bad - even in restating what others have said, the food demands more respect. It didn't seem to bother him last week that RR had been in the Low Country before him - he made a joke out of it and moved on.

            Bummer of a way to end the season - hope the next one (in January) starts out with a bang.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I'm 99% sure "Vincenzo Tripodo", was an actor playing the part, I reccognize the face(usually without facial hair), and look at that last name..Tripodo...????, Tripod...as in the thing movie cameras used to sit on...a joke i'm sure, the show was a little odd, but the second half was really good, damn i'd give my left...uhhh eye to have eaten that last meal!

              1. re: jword2001

                Guess i was wrong, just searched the name...he's a director...shows what i know....

                  1. re: jword2001

                    Even if he's not an actor, I felt like the whole "fulfilling the director's vision" part was totally set-up and not authentic. I generally love the show, but every once and a while--when they are lacking content--they get too twee.

                    Too bad about this episode because the actual food segments were really interesting.

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Per Wikipedia entry of No Reservations under notable guests

                    "Bourdain's wife Ottavia Busia, who is a native of Italy, appeared anonymously on the Season 3 Tuscany episode, as one of the disgruntled diners eating the food he prepares"

                  3. totally agree, in fact I mentioned it on another post. (where i declared my love for the tall man) but this episode just killed me. AB cant act... so the whole scene when his guests hated his food. ARGH. makes me a little nuts. oh well.. i love the show.. i guess you win some ...

                    the butcher part was good though. (barring the stupid effects added in for melodrama)


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: coconutgoddess

                      Maybe it was a bit of a setup, maybe Bourdain knew they wouldn't like it, but I think that Roman woman was just being herself. And even if Bourdain was expecting them to reject it (which I doubt), he was clearly started at the vehemence of her reaction, which is entirely true to life.

                    2. Yes, in general it was awful. I am interested, however, in the roadside joint where they stopped for lunch. We'll be driving around in that general area in a few months - was that a chain of some kind? I didn't catch the name and don't know if I can bear sitting through that episode again.

                      3 Replies
                        1. re: Betty

                          Did anyone notice that on the wall, behind AB, was a sign for Samual Adams Beer? It flashed by rather quickly.

                          1. re: bkhuna

                            I saw that as well. I guess it's an import to them.

                        2. I agree - not up to the usualy entertainment value, but the food looked really beautiful (especially the meats)... and I was salivating at the sight of that giant truffle!

                          1. Best episode to date, in spite of the fact that a much more "clever" ring reference could have been pealed.
                            (But then again, ask yourself ..."'What show could possibly fuck up the Ramones line-up?" ... uh, not even VH1 ...
                            (hey, let's get actuarial-like and check out Jello in SF, do Pinks with the Cramps. Nah, screw the stool softner set, let's go for the young blood ...
                            flash tats with Todd in LA, pose with Winehouse in London))
                            True to his navel-gazing "bad-ass" sense of persona, the jabs at Oliver et al came off as a bit too obvious/easy ...
                            but that "home cooking" segment ... mmm .. probably as close to "Tuscany" many will ever come ... or ever see.

                            1. I am amused that everyone hated this episode so much...I really liked it, thought it showed Tuscan food off fantastically while poking jibes at various myths packaged for tourists. Like Tony, seeing where lardo di colonnata comes from made my night. That stuff is the best.

                              It's so easy to swoon over how perfect Italian cooking is...the flip side of that can be a rigidity and lack of adventurousness in eating. Recently we entertained some lovely young Romans on their first trip to NYC who wanted to try different kinds of food...it was amusing to see how they reacted to the Japanese, Thai, and Peruvian flavors we showed them. Makes me feel a bit better about the international perspective on food that we have in the US.

                              It was also refreshing in this episode to show the haughty attitude that some Italians display towards outsiders (especially in the north). I'll never be "cool" enough to hang out with that director and that Roman woman--neither will Bourdain--made him sympathetic!

                              The Jamie Oliver jabs were sort of cheap shots but also very funny.

                              I think the Dante's Inferno storyline was brought nicely full circle when the butcher stood on the chair quoting from it. Tuscany is not Napa, it's not all about food, wine and relaxing in the sun. Italian history is steeped in bloodshed, pestilence and death...I think the show was attempting to show a bit of the culture, both classic past and fashionable, cranky present, that is behind that wonderful food.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: kenito799

                                Loved the scenes involving food: the roadside restaurant, the family dinner in Marina de Pisa, the butcher shop, the final dinner.

                                Hated the scenes involving the Italian director.

                                1. re: kenito799

                                  kenito, I enjoyed your comment. I liked the episode as well. I had my cousin from Rome stay with me in NYC for two weeks. She was very excited to eat " Chinese food from the box" (She was enamored with NYC and had seen many movies showing Chinese take out"). I could tell that she did not like the food at all. She would not try sushi either. She basically wanted Italian food every night. I laughed becuase I really wanted her to try different cuisines. I loved the Roman woman's reaction to the pasta. That was classic!!

                                  1. re: italiana3

                                    We took some Roman visitors to a Chinese restaurant in San Francisco (Yuet Lee) and ordered our favorite dishes. Two of them remarked that a couple of the dishes were the spiciest things they'd ever eaten, the other two found them inedibly hot. My wife and I had hardly noticed that there was a little diced jalapeño in them.

                                2. Vincenzo Tripodo is a friend of AB and agreed to go along with AB's idea on the show... It might or might not have been ill-conceived but it certainly was a different take on the subject. As far as the first meal goes, it was AB''s idea to play on his insecurity when cooking for Italian natives.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: nyman

                                    How are you aware of all of this? Were you on the production crew?

                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                      I'm close enough to the show to know a thing or two...

                                        1. re: jword2001

                                          I found it hard to believe that AB would not know Italians are extremely particular about their dishes. They prefer the dishes to be created in the classic style, and how they were meant to be prepared. AB is a world traveler and chef, I would think he would know this, but I still liked the episode!

                                        2. re: nyman

                                          even an uneven episode is still better than anything on the food network

                                          1. re: nyman

                                            Care to go for three?
                                            Is the reception of this episode due to simply having played with the formula, an issue of botched execution (decent concept/flawed cut), or the somewhat less than flattering, and clearly mis-attributed, barbs passed through all the role-playing and "filler" scenes? Eh, go figure.

                                            If the sentiments expressed in sibling threads are any indication, going off with your own map should hardly come off as an indulgence ... sweet, sweet latitude.

                                      1. Yep...crappola..and I love Bourdain.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: melly

                                          Me too. My wife will usually be OK with No Res, but after 10 minutes of this crap, we changed it. They better get back to the normal routine.

                                        2. meh, this Ep just didn't gel with me either. But you can't be creative and different if you don't try new stuff.

                                          I just went back and rewatched the Tahiti ep and reminded myself that this show is one of the best out there... go coconut crab, go

                                          1. On further reflection, maybe the whole thing was an attempt to make fun of the seriousness of the Italians, in a Fellini-esque sort of way. I don't think AB would let such a strange show on the air unless he had some kind of motive.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: bkhuna

                                              That was pretty explicit.

                                              My 15X fast-forward button came in handy a lot.

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                LOL! We are watching the Ep right now and doing the SAME THING. I remember seeing this post earlier today, but didn't read... the second we started fast forwarding through bits, I know EXACTLY what the other hounds would be saying... :PPPP

                                            2. Well - that cassoulet certainly erased all evils. I guess that in retrospect, that final meal in Tuscany was in the same vein. I'm much more into manga and the world of graphic novels than crappy cinema verite, so inclusion of the former is much easier to forgive - even in the context of parody. But that's just a personal perspective. Hong Kong was hard to beat - and the shtick film-fu segment was relatively short. Everything since then has sufferred in comparison. But nobody can pull a show of shows out of their ass every time.

                                              1. I loved the Cleveland episode. It certainly helped that I know Harvey Pekar's work and the film adaptation, but that's because he's a serious and established artist. Tripodo hasn't done anything except film-school projects, and at least in this show he was just goofing around.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  There are droves of people who hated the cleveland episode. I know I've mentioned it everywhere I can. I live in Cleveland, and the city you saw on that show is completely inaccurate. I didn't expect it to be a "tourist ad" for Cleveland but instead an accurate representation of what we have here, good and bad. Instead it was bad followed by worse followed by insane and weird. With the exception of Lola, nobody I know who likes good food eats at ANY of the restaurants featured. The bookstore they went to isn't even open to the public. People here think the Free stamp is STUPID. There's a lot more to see in our city besides the one area they kept filming with all the broken windows and abandoned factories. It was a complete misrepresentation of Cleveland, and the worst time to come; our weather is absolutely the worst in February, when the ep was shot.

                                                  All that being said, I actually stayed away from talk about the Tuscany episode til I could watch it for myself. I really liked it. I thought the director vs. actor bits were actually funny whether or not they were contrived. The visit to the fabled butcher shop from Heat was a real highlight and fascinating.

                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                    I LOVED the Cleveland episode, even though it came in an odd place in the NR schedule because of all the international shows that had been airing previously. I'm a food pro insider, with a fair amount of disdain for food show "nonsense" and misinformation, and like I said, I loved the show.

                                                    Rocknroller1, I can see that as a Cleveland resident you would disagree with some of what was shown -- but perhaps you are overlooking the glories of the show: the visit to the beautiful West Side market, purchasing the pork (and subsequent butchering at home into useable pieces). The visit to the Sausage Shoppe and old-world butcher who excelled in handmade German charcuterie. I liked the meal with the cast of characters/wiseasses -- think the place was Hot Sauce Williams. The visit to the Rock and Roll Hame of Fame was great in that it revealed Bourdain's love of the Ramones, and segued into the subsequent meal -- a rhapsody of porcine goodness -- with Marky Ramone. That meal at Lola with chef Michael Symon (whose unusual laugh oddly made me laugh each time) was so fun to watch, especially when Ramone showed a wonderful sense of adventure and capacity for food similar to Bourdain's -- and the kinship that was revealed seemed even to surprise Bourdain. The dissolves into the Pekar cartoon/graphic images were a nice touch. I even liked the dinner table interaction with Ruhlman's kids -- great Americana and no pretense. As far as the gritty urban images, every city has those. AB told a wonderful story, one that evolved during the shooting, and all in all, I think this NR show came off almost as a soulful poem to Cleveland.

                                                    Finally, and closer to home, ever since that show I have been yearning to make the cassoulet AB made that involved lining the pan with pork fat. It's getting almost cold enough in Northern California to make that. I hope for a re-broadcast of the Cleveland show so I can record it.

                                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                                      LOVED those wacky Cleveland guys..."let the diet start tomorrow, today I'll drown my sorrow at the buffet"

                                                      And how they yelled at potty-mouthed Ruhlman...

                                                      I also think the show should make Clevelanders proud. Who wants to see only fancy corporate packaging or upscale white neighborhoods?

                                                  2. Yeah, it was awful!! I'm glad I taped it, because I just zapped through the lame parts--which almost the entire episode.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: fatfudge

                                                      Its kind of like when you hate the play the local theater is doing (in my case the THE Fantasticks) and go anyway, becuase, well, because.

                                                      I'd still love to know the name of the roadside joint (chain or not) they visited.

                                                      1. re: Betty

                                                        Off subject, but why do local theatres always want to do the Fantasticks? I HATE that show....or Harvey..sigh.....
                                                        okay, I'm done.

                                                        1. re: stellamystar

                                                          With apologies to Mssr. Tom Jones:

                                                          Try to remember the kind of September
                                                          When chicken cooked slow and oh, so mellow.
                                                          Try to remember the kind of September
                                                          When andouille was fried and allowed to wallow.
                                                          Try to remember the kind of September
                                                          When you cooked rice so fresh and hallow.
                                                          Add the okra and then the file,
                                                          Then gumbo.

                                                          Gumbo, gumbo, gumbo,
                                                          Gumbo, gumbo, gumbo,
                                                          Gumbo, gumbo, gumbo.

                                                          (sorry... had to do it...)

                                                          1. re: applehome

                                                            very funny, this might get me through the next performance. gumbo, gumbo gumbo....

                                                    2. I agree this wasn't the strongest episode of No Reservations to date, but I liked that they played up the difficulties in shooting and producing these travel shows. I thought Vincenzo and his ideas about shooting the episode were humorous and that Bourdain's tensions with the director gave viewers insight into the process and, if it's to be believed, the extent to which Bourdain can control production of his show. Not an A+ but a solid B.

                                                      1. I loved it but....my husband had just made me sit through what felt like a 6 hour "comedy???" called Waiting. So I have to say that my judgement is very scewed!!! I did think the food scenes were beautifully done and I want to go that butcher's place!

                                                        1. We attempted to watch it on Tivo last night and only lasted through the first 10 or 15 minutes and then couldn't take it any more. It was flat out boring and silly/stupid. I generally like the show enough that I'll be sure to catch the next episode, but this one was awful.

                                                          1. I didn't really pay attention to the episode. I was too busy staring at the Italian lady's cavernous cleavage.

                                                            1. I liked this episode, at least better than the South Carolina one.

                                                              I think Tuscany's covered to death, I don't think there's anything to add that other travel hosts haven't done, so they decided to do a campy sort of an episode.

                                                              It's obvious that the first cooked meal was staged and the rude remarks by the Italians were staged. First off I can't believe that AB won't know the difference between linguini and spaghetti. Second the woman with the sunglasses (and maybe a wig?) turns out to be the same one who later on worked with him on the homemade pasta. Lastly anyone who's been to Italy know that spaghetti and meatballs are just not served together in one dish.

                                                              He was poking fun at Oliver, at himself and everything in general (except for the food). It's a bit irrelevant, avant garde and silly at times.

                                                              At least it's not the same old usual stuff you can catch at a Samantha Brown, Rick Stevies' or Rudy Maxa travel stuff on Tuscany. It seems like since it's on the Travel Channel they do have to put something that's not all food related in the storyline.

                                                              I thought the Cleveland episode was great - very original with the usage of comic strip.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: notmartha

                                                                Agree that Tuscany's done to death, but a few observations. If they felt they needed to do Tuscany in some way because it's still a viewer draw (and I think it must be), they could still have done something more original, serious, and revealing--play against the cliched grain, and try to make the Tuscan table fresh again. If what you say is true, about cmaping it up, it's shocking how completely flat it all fell. And wasn't there more than once when TB proclaimed from some cypress-framed hillside how this was the best place/food in the world? Who can believe him, especially since when not joking around he ends up mostly in such overexposed junket spots like Villa Banfi?

                                                                1. re: obob96

                                                                  I don't know - I guess if you have a travel show that has a heavy emphasis on food, missing Tuscany will be like saying you've been to major museums in the world but somehow missed the Lourve or the Met at NYC.

                                                                  They have to cover Tuscany and not in a boring way, and maybe the result is that the majority of the people just don't 'get' it. Or maybe since this board is for foodies we rather have more food porn than the average Joe, and have less tolerance of campy behavior/bad acting instead of more food porn.

                                                                  I think in between the strange humor he was sincere about the beauty of the landscape and of the food there. At least I think he is, maybe it's because I've been to that region and it is as good as he said. The gentle rolling hills all covered with grapevines is just unbelievably scenic.

                                                                  Actually I have to say this season has more than it's fair share of great food coverage. Some of past season's shows makes me want to throw up rather than drool (anyone remembered the seal eye or the unwashed warhog?).

                                                                  The weakest show food-wise this season is Tahiti. I don't know how many times he has to eat poisson cru. The only good looking stuff on that episode was the coconut crab.

                                                              2. The "meat" of the program-- AB and Cesare Casella visiting with Dario Cecchini in Panzano-- has been posted on YouTube. Not sure when the Legal Weasels will demand it be pulled, so see it soon. Contains no faux-Fellini.


                                                                But as for Tuscany being that boring, no, not if you know what you're doing!

                                                                1. So what is the real story of Bourdain cooking a bad meal? Did he intentionally mess it up? Otherwise how can an executive chef not know how to make classic Italian, like a professional basketball player not knowing how to dribble. Was it staged to show how rigid and particular the Italians are about their food?

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: catsil

                                                                    Read nyman's post above.... http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4446... (wow - this is a resurrection from the past - did this show just air again?)

                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                      it did just air where I am, Discovery channel in Netherlands

                                                                      1. re: catsil

                                                                        Ahhhh - didn't realize it would have been 2 years later.