Debi Mazar is an acclaimed actress who made her feature film debut in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. A native New Yorker, she is best known for her outstanding portrayals of edgy, sharp-tongued characters in over 70 films, television shows and stage productions. Her extensive onscreen work includes films with legendary directors Woody Allen, Michael Mann, Oliver Stone and Joel Schumacher. She also starred in her own television sitcom Temporarily Yours and was known for her role as hard-charging publicist ‘Shauna’ on the HBO series Entourage, which earned her and the cast a Screen Actors Guild nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series in 2004. She also appears in the film version released on June 5, 2015. Check her in TV Land series Younger.
She and her husband, Gabriele Corcos, created, directed, produced and host their hit Cooking Channel show, Extra Virgin, inviting viewers into their Brooklyn home as they prepare the Tuscan foods they know so well. Originally created as a blog, the show returned for a fifth season in January 2015. The couple released their first cookbook, the New York Times bestseller Extra Virgin, with Clarkson/Potter in 2014. Debi, along with her husband and two daughters, currently divide their time between their home in Brooklyn and a 14th-century house outside of Florence, Italy.
NYC vs LA? Why did you relocate?
I moved to LA in the mid 90’s initially to pursue my acting career. Once there, I fell in love with Southern California. There was wonderful architecture, space, sunshine, modernism and nature. My garden had bougainvillea,avocado trees,night jasmine, birds of paradise, lemon tree’s, beautiful flowers,Humming birds…and a pool! The mountains were an hour away,same with the beach. I learned to drive,and fell in love with the vintage car culture. My first car was a ’62 Chevy Impala SS,with glass packs…It was HOT. I was always a collector of many things/flea market person, and the Los Angeles Flea Markets were magnificent. I met incredible people, and developed life long relationships that spanned from Washington State,down through Mexico. Los Angeles for me,was about about health,farmers markets, bouncing around to auditions and learning about myself. Oddly what I enjoyed most about LA, had nothing to do with the entertainment industry. I did that for a decade solo. By the time I got married to my Tuscan Husband and had 2 kids,we spent another decade in Los Angeles,in a fantastic 1930’s Spanish home,nesting,and navigating parenthood…wondering where we should raise our children,since living in LA had become a drag with the paparazzo and the new culture of “celebrity” which I found invasive and vulgar. We were spending more time at home being parents,entertaining a lot. We developed a Tuscan food blog, which was just for fun at 1st, then a thing called YouTube launched,and we uploaded it there,and it exploded! Press offers came in organically, and then the Food Network called and said they were launching a new network called THE COOKING CHANNEL, and asked if we would like to create a show for them and launch with the network. EXTRA VIRGIN was born. We created an original format for them, a docu-soap, that was all about simple Tuscan cuisine, lifestyle, history and family. The food was the star, and the comedy drove the story. We got to produce,write,act and direct our family and guests. That was 6 years ago,and its still going strong.
At a certain point,with our children getting older, we thought it was time to head towards Tuscany. Me, being a NY’er really wanted to first relocate back to Brooklyn,give our daughter’s (Evelina 13 and Giulia 9) and Gabriele a taste of NY life. I wanted my family to understand where I came from,and be thrown into the melting pot,of where everyone of all ethnicities are living together, rich & poor. I wanted them to be surrounded by NY’s incredible history, culture, subways, and go back to the 4 seasons.
I thought leaving Los Angeles for NYC could possibly end my career, but I went with my heart,as opposed to my mind, and it turned out to be a great move! My husband single handedly,exploded our brand,and even opened up his own cafe/store–TheTuscanGun.com. We wrote a best selling Cookbook,and I booked a fantastic TV series with Darren Star called YOUNGER (for TVLAND) that takes place in Brooklyn and NYC (we are currently filming season 2). Children were put into Public School, and are now strong NY ladies. We frequent theater,art shows…and we are now closer to Italy,which we travel to often. We suspect that in a few years we will relocate permanently to our Tuscan estate, and bring it back to full rustic grandeur, with farm animals. We have about 18,000 olive trees, and have plans to open up a wonderful Rustic hotel/cooking school within our property. It’s a journey, that has moved forward from love, dreams, and curiosity. We take chances, even through fear, to live our lives to the fullest!
Do Italians do it better…. food wise?
Italians are so passionate. The food there is so fresh,and divine. Italy’s history entered my soul,and changed my perspective on many things from automobiles, to fashion, soccer, etiquette. Being a well traveled person, I can’t say that Italians do it “better” than anyone else, as I love so many cuisines and cultures. HOWEVER…I married an Italian man. I am a proud Italian Citizen as well! We all have dual citizenship!
Fave Cook Book
Oh My God…we collect cookbooks…there are so many amazing ones! but I am quite proud of ours “EXTRA VIRGIN Recipes and Love from our Tuscan Kitchen”.
Every Kitchen should have…
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a Bialetti Moca Pot, fresh loaf of bread, garlic, hot pepper flakes, peeled tomatos, herbs, lemons, avocados, dark chocolate, rice, pasta, onions, and greens for salad.
Earliest Food Memory
My Mamma had me at 15, so my early memories were more of my grandmothers cooking. We would walk to Jamaica Ave (in Queens) and go to the butcher for good meats. The milk and butter were still delivered to a box at our front door, and it was delicious! Sadly, I remember Swanson’s Frozen dinners (like bad airplane food) from my mamma early on, but when she was about 22 she moved us up to Woodstock where she became a hippy, and grew a major vegetable garden, and became a fabulous cook! She opened up a health food store in 1972 in Saugerties NY. She was a homeopath as well.
Moment you knew your husband is a match made in cucina italia?
I think it was our third date (in Firenze) He brought me to his apartment (Fiesole) and made me lunch. He was comfortable in the kitchen, super smooth…He made me- Cantaloupe with Prosciutto di Parma, fried zucchini blossoms simple dish of pasta- Bucatini all’Amatriciana, and some delicious local Chianti from a neighboring farm. NO man had ever cooked for me before on a date. I don’t think I left his home for a few days. We were never apart again after that summer. That was 15 years ago.
Fave dish you & your family never get tired of at Xmas?
Melanzane Alla Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmigiana). I love this dish! It’s vegetarian, it’s comfort food to us..super healthy and even better the next day.
Fave Holiday Cocktail
Fave holiday destination?
We love going to Italy for Christmas. We see family, and Gabriele’s family throws down in the kitchen! We finally get to take a break for a change be guests. We love walking through the streets of Firenze during the holiday. Everything sparkles with decor, and celebration(and sales:)) Our favorite pastimes are to walk through the fields and see the sunsets, watch the wild boars, deer, pheasants etc roam the fields. We love to make dinners in our big Tuscan fire place, and just watch the flame, while drinking a great glass of wine. I collect vases, and kitchen things from the Medici era, and I pull them out and transport myself to another era. No TV! I Take a break from news and things that stress me out. We rarely go on a proper vacation anyplace else. Thats something I’m working on! I have dragged my children everywhere I go for work, and we deserve to be on a beach in Salvador Bahia, or someplace where it isn’t work related!
Describe your holiday decor?
OK…I am a corny American, who loves to decorate! I have a big tree, and all of my family’s X-mas balls still left over from the 50’s and 60’s. I’ve saved every X-mas ornament anyone has ever given me, or things my kids made over the years. I was so excited to buy a fresh tree once we moved back to NY, but every year it dried up, even though I followed all the proper directions. It sadly didn’t make my home smell like pine, and all the needles went everywhere. So, I purchased a FABULOUS artificial tree that is big and full and has all different light settings. I assemble,and VOILA!! in 5 minutes it is up, lit and ready to decorate! I don’t cut down a tree and there is no dead needles everywhere. I like to do lights all over the front of my home, and basically have on the spot sex with husband, to get him to put them up when I ask:) I make sure to have a fresh mistle toe hanging so we can kiss when we pass underneath, and both girls like to decorate as well, so there are pointsettias around, and lights strung in different rooms with mini Christmas trees in kids rooms. In my neighborhood in Brooklyn, every home is totally done up! It’s so old school. I play the Phil Spector “A Christmas gift for you” record over and over…it’s on a loop. It’s my favorite. I remember every Christmas of my entire life when I play that record. I think about times with my grandmothers, family..friends.
I cry because I miss people, I laugh for the good times and keep going to create new great memories.
What are your family Xmas traditions?
We have fish on the 24th, open a few gifts the night before, with family and friends. Husband’s Father is Jewish, so we light a menorah as well, that’s about 500 years old. We used to leave milk and cookies out for Santa, but now kids don’t believe in him anymore, once they realized that Santa and I had the same penmanship. Christmas day, I try to get up really early, because my children are up at the crack of dawn, or before. I try to brush my hair and put on a little makeup so i can look cute in the pictures…yep..I do that.
Recipe to keep romance alive… out of kitchen!
Sliced pecorino cheese dipped in good honey with hot pepper flakes, fresh figs, and a glass of Brunello di Montalcino…sexy, easy appetizer to be enjoyed at sunset…or on a picnic in a park! Or…in your bedroom.
Fall fashion that you are coveting this holiday season?
I’m excited to go to Firenze to hit antique jewelry places to get a little something, or to find Renaissance inspired fashion. I like to set my own trends.This fall/winter, I threw down on several Sybilla pieces. Sybilla is from Madrid, and came to NYC and did a month long pop up. Her lines are classic Latin, super sharp, modern and chic. I love red, creme & black on me, and she works with those colors a lot. I only buy things that are timeless…except my stretch jeggings:) Another favorite and staple in my wardrobe is Isabel Toledo. I consider myself one of her muses.
I think we have a common passion of vintage… Why? …tell me yours and I will tell you mine?
I love history. I love how sound & speed has evolved, as have the lines of automobiles, art, fashion, and pottery over the century. I love to own things that were once others and imagine the stories behind them..I like taking my time to peruse through markets, and search for a needle in a haystack. I love to give gifts that are original. It’s so easy to find special things that are cool and evoke humor or beauty at flea markets, and are well priced. When I find clothes, I like to turn them inside out to see the mastery of the tailoring, that has become a lost art.
Fave all time make up look for the holidays?
My makeup generally is always the same..I may add a touch of sparkle which my husband always notices and thinks we are headed to the bedroom for some reason:)..But for the most part, I wear a light base to even my complexion. I like to see my skin, so I don’t over apply..I wear a big, gorgeous red lip, and eyebrow…and lots of mascara. Maybe I do a bit of eyeliner, but on me…less is more. I wear so much makeup at work while acting or being photographed, that I feel much prettier and younger, once I wash my face. Holiday face for me is a happy face with red lips.
What is your fave charity?
Feeding America, Food Bank NYC, and several charities that raise money for children’s education, LGBTQ, and AIDS/HIV.