Windsor Terrace’s Gabriele Corcos brings fresh Tuscan cuisine to the masses, with a little help from movie star wife Debi Mazar
by Catherine Gigante-Brown
How did a med school-dropout/globetrotting musician end up with one of the most popular shows on the Cooking Channel and a bestselling cookbook? It helps for a start to be brutally honest.
“I’m not a chef…just a hungry guy, therefore I cook,” Gabriele Corcos said, adding that he didn’t train professionally, either. “I was surrounded by women who cooked on the farm where I grew up in Tuscany: my mother, my grandmother…farmers’ wives.”
Corcos didn’t realize that could be a professional asset until he and wife, actress Debi Mazar, saw the attention their Internet cooking blog “Under the Tuscan Gun” garnered. (The name is a nod to Corcos’s mother, who warned Mazar to feed her figlio and granddaughters in the Tuscan way.)
Before Corcos and Mazar knew it, their “Gun” had created an audience appetite. There were calls from magazines and an offer to do a Cooking Channel series.
“I’m surprised and flattered how Extra Virgin has taken off,” said Corcos. “We have a very relaxed approach, with an appreciation for simple, farm-fresh ingredients.” Now in its fourth season, Extra Virgin is unlike any other cooking show in that it is part reality series, part “how to.” Much of its success is due to the couple’s warm, winning bond.
“We enjoy sharing the lifestyle,” told Corcos. “It’s basically peasant cuisine, affordable and easy to prepare. Good food doesn’t have to be high end.”
Mazar and Corcos met in 2001 when she was on holiday in Italy, and have been together ever since. Corcos soon moved to Los Angeles with the actress, and they were married and pregnant within seven months.
“In LA, I had space, weather, and a converted garage that was a recording studio,” he recalled. “But we wanted our kids to be more like Deb [Mazar hails from Jamaica, Queens], instead of saying things like, ‘That’s awesome, dude!’” A few years ago, the family settled into a quaint woodframe house in Windsor Terrace. “It’s important for our girls to be grounded, to be part of a neighborhood,” Corcos said. And indeed they are, attending nearby public schools.
“I love the fact that they have friends across the street,” he added. It’s not uncommon to see Corcos at the local butcher, speaking Italian with the owner, or to run into Mazar at the neighborhood pharmacy. Unlike many transplants in the 11215 zip code, they have no nanny; it’s just the two of them raising Evelina and Giulia, even with Mazar often working on location. The classic beauty with the aquamarine eyes made her mark in films like Goodfellas, and as “Shauna,” the deliciously abrasive agent in HBO’s Entourage.
In 2014, Corcos hosted a series of sold-out pop-up dinners in a café close to home.
“I didn’t want the customer to be an afterthought,” he explained. “You know, rushing them in, pushing out meals. To me, that’s not dinner. The pace of a meal should be dictated by the stove, not by anything else. Ultimately, the kitchen is my playground.” Corcos’ leisurely, seven-course feasts often include selections like delectable white bean and pancetta bruschetta, fragrant porchetta infused with rosemary, garlic, and fennel seeds, and mouthwatering pasta alla gricia. He chats amicably about each course, visits every table, and charms his guests with sparkling personality and culinary skills.
“I wanted to capture the spirit of going to Grandma’s for Sunday dinner,” he said. And by all accounts, he did; additional popup dinners are planned for 2015, which Extra Virgin fans eagerly track on social media.
Although Corcos seems comfortable in his newfound home, he admitted, “I’m still a Tuscan farmer at heart. I like to watch the sun rise and set over the land, to eat foods I grow and gather.
Brooklyn is different. I need to adjust within myself.”
With the fifth season of the TV series in the can and Extra Virgin: Recipes & Love from Our Tuscan Kitchen (Clarkson Potter, 2014) in multiple printings—and on the Times bestseller list as well as one of Amazon’s “Books of the Year”—the world seems to be Corcos’s oyster.
“I’m collecting new ideas, possibly for a vegetarian cookbook,” he added. “A dream is to open a cooking school/bed and breakfast on the farm back in Tuscany. But I still love New York, the work ethic and commitment to success that Americans have, so I’m torn. I’d like to bring back the concept of a neighborhood shop with only a few items on the menu and maybe a sauce to bring home to enjoy later. But whatever I do, I want to make it special.”