Get ready to feel all the feels – all at once – with the new Netflix
The eight-episode romantic drama is inspired by the memoir, “From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home,” penned by Tembi Locke. Her book became a New York Times
The cross-cultural love story jumps between the beautiful Sicilian countryside and sunny Los Angeles. It’s the story of Tembi and Saro, Amy and Lino in the adapted version, and how their love conquered all.
Tembi co-created the series with her sister, Attica Locke. When she first met Saro, she was an actress, and he was a chef. In the televised version, she’s an artist. They first met on the street in Florence, Italy, and though some might say it was love at first sight, Tembi described it a bit differently in a recent interview.
“The first time I saw Saro, what I immediately felt was, well, let me clarify, I was just 20 years old, and I was like, ‘He’s cute.’ It was pretty superficial, to be honest. But I did recognize this level of honesty and openness in him that I wasn’t ready for at the time. But he pursued me,” she added, laughing, reliving that time. “It became evident quickly that he was the kind of quality person I hadn’t seen before. He introduced me to this type of love and taught me the possibility of the type of love that could be. It was a love I describe as funny, open, reciprocal, respectful and visionary.”
The couple faced numerous obstacles, as depicted in the series with Zoe Saldaña as Amahle “Amy” Wheeler and Eugenio Mastrandrea as Lino Ortolano. His traditional Sicilian family disapproved of his decision to marry a black American woman from Texas.
In time, however, the two families would become one. They married, moved to Los Angeles, and adopted a baby girl. Life was good, and then Saro was diagnosed with cancer, and all their dreams of a long life together were shattered.
The novel chronicles three summers Tembi spent in Sicily with her daughter, Zoela, as the two discovered life without him. They lived in his tiny farming town, and she felt solace with his family. The Sicilian countryside became a place of healing for her and her daughter with its nourishing, fresh food and close-knit community.
Writing the book and sharing her story, said Tembi, was therapeutic though she didn’t realize that at the outset. It had been five years since Saro’s death, and the feelings were still raw. “I just knew I had to write it. The stakes were very high emotionally. I felt I’d suffer another grief if I didn’t write down what I’d experienced. The book also serves as a blueprint for my daughter, for the kind of love I hope she finds someday.”
About ten years ago, Tembi went to her sister Attica and asked, “What do I do with everything I just experienced, what I learned about life and love?” Her memoir was the answer. Neither imagined at the time that Tembi’s book would become a huge success nor that the two would go on a journey together to adapt her memoir for television.
Tembi explains that she felt a responsibility to tell her love story and to be completely transparent in portraying the complexity of it. As storytellers, the Locke sisters agreed they had to be fully authentic.
With the novel and TV series, the sisters wanted to tell a story about love in all forms, including romantic love and love of culture, food, and travel. It was also essential to include the love of family and the universal love that holds together our shared humanity.
“We knew instinctively that this is a story of epic love in all its forms, from eros to agape, and one that centers around a black woman’s coming-of-age. A story that begins when she goes against her family to study abroad and falls in love with art, Italy, and herself,” says Attica. “As her sister, I had a front-row seat to her love story, and when we talked about adapting this into a TV show, we wanted to do it in a very big way. We wanted to show that a good and intense romantic love can open your heart to every type of love. Tembi and Saro’s love brought our families together. Saro gave us this big, extended family that crossed cultures and borders.”
There’s a hopeful message here. “This story is a love letter to love,” explains Tembi. “But we told more than one love story. It’s about my love story with Saro and my love story with my mother-in-law. That story also felt like one worth telling.” Though she passed away before watching the series, she knew of the book and felt honored to be a part of it.
To this day, Tembi and her daughter split their time between Los Angeles and Sicily, where they spend their summers. When asked if she has any advice for those of us still searching for love, Tembi quickly answers, and her reply is simple. “Stay open. Life is full of surprises.”
Dana Feldman, Senior Contributor