Debi Mazar, known for playing Ray Liotta’s mouthy mistress in Goodfellas and the hard-edged publicist on Entourage, met Gabriele Corcos, a musician-turned-cook, at a party while vacationing in Italy. The couple was married on March 16, 2002, by actress Ellen Burstyn—who is, believe it or not, an ordained Sufi high priest. They have two daughters—8-year-old Evelina Maria and 5-year-old Giulia Isabel—and divide their time between Los Angeles and a beautiful 14th-century home outside of Florence. After hosting an Internet show-blog, Under the Tuscan Gun, where they cooked up mouthwatering dishes, the culinary couple debuted the show Extra Virgin, airing Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. on the Cooking Channel.
Gallery: Debi, Gabriele & Their Food
The Daily Beast caught up with Debi and Gabriele prior to the show’s season finale to talk about their kitchen dos and don’ts, food stories from Scorsese’s film set, and an unexpected chef surprise on the final season of Entourage.
How do you guys stay in such good shape given the hearty meals you’re always cooking?
Gabriele: We’re always frantic and very active. We have two young kids.
Debi: We don’t sleep. We run around and we’re always stressed out. I think you burn a lot with that. But it’s also genetics. I’m a girl who’s curvy and I’m Latvian, but I don’t have hips and I have a tiny waist. Even though my ass or tits might get too big, I work with what I have. I’m not a gym queen.
It all started with your blog, Under the Tuscan Gun.
Debi: To be honest with you, we’re always on the verge of extinction, to a degree. We had the blog thing, but blogging for seven years where you don’t make a dime off it—we had people that wanted to advertise on our website, but it was like soy sauce. We came up with [the blog] because we had free time on our hands. I was pregnant and Hollywood didn’t like to see me huge, so we were just cooking all the time. We were going to do a book called The Tuscan Cookbook for the Pregnant Male. I had a friend who was a book agent who said, “Men don’t buy cookbooks.” So, we started blogging for fun. And one thing people didn’t stop asking me about, besides Entourage, was stuff like, “Hi, I’m a gay guy in Manhattan and I’m really inspired,” so we were just like, “Fuck! We should keep going.”
How did you come up with the idea of Extra Virgin?
Debi: Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Cucine Italiane, and all these relevant people kept calling me directly and saying, “Can we do an article?” So, it went from blog to TV because one of our fans was Bruce Seidel, who started the Cooking Channel for Scripps. He loved our blog, and we had a meeting. We weren’t seeking it out, it just happened naturally. When they offered us a studio or renting a California mansion, we looked at the kitchens and go, “Our followers like that because they have kitchens like ours, and we’re not chefs, we’re cooks.” Being in our kitchen is what people respond to because it seems like they can do it too. I’m not really letting you into my life; I’m just letting you into my kitchen.
Did you two initially connect over your love of food?
Debi: No. We met in Florence. I was on a holiday there. Our connection at first wasn’t over food, it was over, “Let’s go buy another pack of cigarettes,” in a piazza while drinking fantastic Brunello. Our connection actually happened over Afro-Cuban music, and salsa.
Gabriele: The most unexpected conversation. We met at a party, went out to smoke cigarettes, and we never made it back to the party. We spent three hours sitting on a stoop of a church in a square, just talking.
“He gave me a meal that was so gorgeous. It was fried zucchini flowers stuffed with fresh mozzarella from the market, prosciutto melone. It looked so beautiful because Gabriele has such a good eye for set dressings.”
Debi: He said to me, “You’re fabulous. Do you want to have kids?” That was like three seconds before we walked back into the party. I was like, “Yeah.” And then when we walked back into the party, I was like, “What the fuck did he just say?” We hadn’t even kissed yet! But I used to collect congas and he was a conguero. He went to medical school for almost seven years to be a surgeon, and told his father in the beginning of year seven, “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to do this.” And he sold his Ducati, and went to Brazil and Cuba and learned how to play congas. I grew up with Puerto Ricans and salsa-ing my little heart out in New York City. I would make congas into little nightstands next to my bed. We fell in love over our obsession of music.
So when did food enter the equation?
Debi: I actually have the picture where Gabriele finally said, “Hey, do you want to come over to my apartment?” Which meant, “Do you want to have sex?” And he gave me a meal that was so gorgeous. It was fried zucchini flowers stuffed with fresh mozzarella from the market, prosciutto melone. It looked so beautiful because Gabriele has such a good eye for set dressings. I never had a guy cook for me EVER before. That was pretty impressive!
Did you cook for guys in the past?
Debi: I’ve always been a cook and I’ve always tried to impress boyfriends with cooking. They’d always just stuff it down their face. Finally, there was somebody who not only appreciated my effort, but he cooked even better than me. Finally, somebody who got it. To me, it’s a religious experience to sit down at anyone’s table. I feel so invited like it’s a sacred place. For Gabriele and myself, it was perfect because we got each other.
Who taught you how to cook?
Gabriele: Mainly, my mom. She was a schoolteacher. On Saturday night, when I was about 6, she would bring me to the kitchen and say, “Here’s the fridge, here’s the food you have to prepare for your brother.” One day, since I was spending so much time in the kitchen, I broke out the cookbook and baked a cake. Then, I delivered the cake to my mom and said, “You owe me $15.” And that became my [cooking] allowance. And I never stopped since. Although I grew up in a kosher household so I couldn’t cook pork or shellfish, but now I can.
Debi: His father’s Jewish. I found out because I found a prosciutto in the basement. My mother had me at 15, and we also lived with my grandmother, so she basically popped me out and went back to being a teenager. Then, it was the summer of hippie love and she was making shit like Sukiyaki, which really sucks and is more or less inedible. I would beg my grandmother to let me hang in the kitchen and watch her cook. She would cook all these 1950s dishes like Beef Wellington, scalloped potatoes. Very Americana. When I was about 5 and my mom finally got her own apartment, we lived in a building where Puerto Ricans were upstairs, Italians were next door, and blacks were downstairs. So I’d be like, “Mom, can I go to Rosie’s house?” I was Latvian and like fourth-generation American, and there were no real Latvian recipes, so I was just going to other people’s houses and watching their moms in the kitchen. And when I got old enough I started traveling and it became a great curiosity to see what other people were cooking.
What cooking shows do you enjoy watching on TV?
Debi: I like to watch Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern, because I like them when they travel. I like Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. Giada is really nice, but I get a little bit bored with just staying in the kitchen.
Moving from blogging to TV sounds like Julie & Julia. Amy Adams’ character had a food blog as well.
Debi: I loved that movie. I thought it was so cool. But yeah, I remember my boss saying, “There might be cooks that are jealous of you.” But, turning that around, I found out that a very famous chef is going to be in a few interviews of Entourage this season.
Can you break the news to us?
Debi: Yeah. Bobby Flay. Fuck it. It hasn’t been confirmed by Entourage, but it’s confirmed by somebody else. The Wall Street Journal did an article about why celebrities are doing cookbooks, and I was like, “Am I a celebrity?” I guess I’ve been in movies and TV shows here and there, but I’ve been cooking for so many years when it wasn’t even hip to do. I was like, “Geez! I have a blog!”
Gabriele: We started posting when YouTube wasn’t even one year old.
Debi: But yeah, Bobby Flay is smart, he’s an incredible cook, he’s from New York. I don’t know how they’re going to use him, but he’s going to be able to actually act in a few episodes.
And you get your children involved in the kitchen as well.
Debi: We’re having a great time, and people love to see the family element. My husband has the philosophy that if you can work a Nintendo control, you can chop an onion. So, we have our children in the kitchen. We sit down every night for dinner. We’re trying to give our kids a sense of what’s going into their bodies, and it’s also good for family time.
Gabriele: It’s also our retirement plan. We can be like, “Make me this! Make me that!” when we can’t anymore.
Why do you think there are so many good cooking TV shows, yet most of the cooking movies, like Eat Pray Love, are so awful?
Debi: Well, it really depends how they’re done. Television is fast. Eat Pray Love is a vagina story. It’s just the kind of thing that my husband can’t deal with. It’s a chick flick!
Gabriele: I couldn’t get past the first half hour, the same way I couldn’t get past the first chapter in the book. It was too vagina for me.
Any other big surprises for the final season of Entourage?
Debi: I don’t know about surprises? I do know they’re speaking about a movie, which I’m really excited about. I heard Andrew Dice Clay is in this season. But other than that, I don’t know because I haven’t been given a script. I learn about what’s going on in Entourage from Nikki Finke. But Bobby Flay is the only thing I know about.
What do you nosh on while shooting Entourage?
Debi: I tend to bring leftovers. I have my little lunch bag, I’ll take a couple of bites. I go to work, I drink a lot of water and coffee to amp up Shauna’s bitchiness, I’ll knock it out and get out of there. But if I have a hot lunch that the caterer provides, a big, heavy meal, and then have to memorize dialogue and deliver it rapid-fire, I can’t. So, hubby usually sends me to work with a lunch bag.
Are there any foods that either of you can’t stand?
Debi: I don’t like organ meat. He loves it. It tastes like blubber. I don’t want liver, guts, tongue. His mother will be slicing something and it looks so sexy and she’ll put a sliver on a cracker, and I’m like, “What are you noshing on?” And she’s like, “Oh, lengua [tongue]!” It’s this disgusting tongue on a platter! My husband will not eat tofu. It doesn’t matter how I prepare it, he’ll always put his nose up to it, and I’m like, “Fuck you! You’re going to turn your kids off to a good way to get protein!” He’s like, “No.”
Gabriele: It’s hard for me to figure out where it’s coming from. The white cube of Jell-O stuff that I don’t recognize…it’s just white matter. No.
There are a ton of salivating food scenes in Goodfellas. Did you learn anything about food on the set?
Debi: Martin Scorsese’s parents were both still alive, Catherine and Charlie, and this is prior to Marty putting out the cookbook Italian American: The Scorsese Family Cookbook of his mother’s recipes. When I would go on the set, Marty would have his mother literally ironing his shirts outside his trailer, and also cooking on the set. I loved the idea that a mother would still come to her son’s job and prepare him a nice, warm meal. I liked the idea of the gesture of love. That scene where they’re having nice dinners in jail is genius. It’s like, “Oh, that’s fun! Can I go to jail too?” But it’s more about how the mother keeps the tradition of Italy in her family’s life. That, to me, is something I walked away with. For lunch, we would go to restaurants in the neighborhood—in Little Italy.
Are you guys going to open a restaurant someday?
Gabriele: We have many, many ideas. One of them is to open a cooking school with a bed and breakfast on our property in Italy. I’ve been approached three times by people who were willing to invest with me to open something, but my obsession with food comes from the act of cooking, sitting down with you, and sharing a glass of wine and talking. It’s an experience. I don’t like the idea of being stuck in a kitchen. And I don’t like the fact that I don’t see you when I cook food for you.
Debi: I have a favorite restaurant out here, Angelini Osteria, and when the chef’s not there, you notice it. And even for my husband, it’s the one restaurant that’s closest to home. It happens to be around the corner from our current house, and whenever we eat there, my husband says, “That’s how my mother makes it!” And we’re in sunny L.A. But if you run a restaurant, you can’t travel! We just hit 10 years, and we’re pretty much joined at the hip. That’s how we like it.
Marlow Stern works for The Daily Beast and has a master's from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He has served in the editorial department of Blender magazine, as an editor at Amplifier magazine, and, since 2007, editor of Manhattan Movie Magazine.