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Irreverent, hedonist and lover of life’s pleasure to describe Ugo Tognazzi on the100th anniversary of his birthday

At La Tognazza, where the actor cooked for movie stars, his son Gianmarco continues to produce wines that reflect the philosophy of “mixing”

Ugo Tognazzi was one of the absolute top stars of Italian comedy films, beloved by the public and “a legend" during the golden age of comedy, together with Alberto Sordi, Vittorio Gassman and Nino Manfredi. Tognazzi, who would have been 100 years old this year — the actor was born in Cremona in 1922 - was also a passionate food lover. At the villa in Velletri, La Tognazza, his well-equipped kitchen (including a huge fridge that occupied an entire wall) was the focus of memorable evenings in which Ugo Tognazzi started cooking and prepared lunches and dinners for dozens of people. His guests were also the legendary names of cinema, from Monicelli to Ferreri to Paolo Villaggio. Long before recipes, cooking techniques and the obsessive search for ingredients became a trend, Tognazzi dedicated all the free time he had to his passion, between one set and another.
As the gastronaut, Davide Paolini, reminded us in his article in the Italian journal, "Il Sole 24 Ore" (and as Winenews has written many times in its online pages, ed.), Ugo Tognazzi was “a forerunner of local products. He cultivated his marvels in the garden at his house, La Tognazza, in Velletri, and which is still active today, producing oil, eggs, chickens, geese, ducks, fruit and vegetables, all maintained with well water, and wine. His son, Gianmarco, has continued with the same passion, producing six excellent wines: Tapioco, Antani, Casa Vecchia, Conte Mascetti, Come se fosse, Voglia Matta”.
Winenews recently interviewed Gianmarco Tognazzi, who recalled that his father, at the end of the Sixties, when everyone was going to supermarkets, was ahead of his time also in the philosophy of organic farming, and at home, we only ate what came from the land. Gianmarco also explained that he has carried on the family production business. “We define our wine "Toscazio", because it is a blend of grapes from two regions, Tuscany and Lazio”, Gianmarco said, “usually the wine world tends to say, ‘I am this, you are that’, while instead our philosophy, which is my father’s and what I grew up with, follows the logic of mixing. Mixing in making food, and in this case, also grapes. So we are pursuing the idea of mingling two territories and two micro-climates. We need audacity and to have fun in the wine world, not just standardization, which I respect, but is not part of our way of being. We like unity and not separation, and therefore we want to unite territories. The fun and passion for wine come from experimentation and alchemy. I saw Ugo as an alchemist in the kitchen. He would combine products from the South with products from the North, and he made very daring combinations, sometimes monstrous, other times brilliant”.
Gianmarco Tognazzi continued saying,
“everything comes from the conviviality that is experienced around wine, and subjectivity of taste. Everyone must taste what the wine itself suggests to them, regardless of their technical analysis skills. Most of all, though, they must be involved in the stories that there are to tell, which are not just the technicalities. The stories behind a wine are important also to express one’s life manifesto. Now, my number one activity is to produce wine; being an actor is a hobby. One must closely follow the many processes of wine, from production to distribution, which must also be made known to the final customer. We welcome you to our house surrounded by vineyards, where my father's philosophy of life took shape, closely linked to the world of cinema. Let those who love wine live the experience of how this lifestyle was conceived”.
Wine, Gianmarco Tognazzi concluded, has also contributed in an essential way to creating many terms and idioms that have become famous (such as, “supercazzola”, and many more), in Ugo Tognazzi’s films, distortions that came out during convivial “joking around” evenings, talking about cinema and ideas — that then were included in the official scripts.
Tognazzi was always experimenting, and on the lookout for new ideas. He loved to amaze his guests, having fun “exploiting” them as guinea pigs for his culinary experiments. He used the table as a sort of stage, where the guests were the audience to be entertained. Another excellent opportunity to bring together friends and celebrities was the T.T.T (Tognazzi Tennis Tournament), which the actor organized for 25 editions, starting in 1966. Personalities from cinema, television and journalism challenged each other on the clay tennis court at Tognazzi's villa in Torvaianica, and the winner was awarded the coveted “Scolapasta d’oro” (gold pasta strainer). The festival was actually an excuse for memorable nocturnal drinks and plates of spaghetti. Tognazzi was even the star in a Mickey Mouse comic book (in which he played himself cooking at the stove, under the pseudonym, Mister Frittazzi). He directed a specialized monthly, “Nuova Cucina”, wrote several books, such as “L’Abbuffone”, “La Mia Cucina”, the “Rigettario” and “Aphrodite in cucina”, which include amusing anecdotes, as well as handwritten recipes.
However, to fully understand the unbridled passion Tognazzi nurtured for good food, just read his own words, “Cooking is in my blood, which, I think, will certainly include red blood cells and white blood cells, but in my case, also a respectable percentage of tomato sauce. I'm addicted to the stove. I have “spaghettitis”. I think the kitchen is the most shocking room in the house. No one really understands Quasimodo's hermeticism better than I do; that is, a pale olive can really make me delirious. I know the service doors and the cooks in the best restaurants in Europe. The actor? Sometimes I feel like I'm doing it as a hobby. Not eating: I eat to live”.

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