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Secondo: Actress Antoinette LaVecchia serves up more love and laughter in Hartford

Two hundred pots of homemade Bolognese. Seventeen hundred bowls of homemade spaghetti. One thousand classes of chianti poured. Three marriage proposals.

That was the tally at the end of Antoinette LaVecchia’s earlier, award-winning run as author and chef Giulia Melucci in “I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti.” 

The one-woman show, based on Melucci’s memoir/cookbook of the same name, chronicles the author’s calamity-plagued love life in a humorous and touching take. In between Melucci’s stories, LaVecchia makes homemade batches of Bolognese pasta, all to the delight of audiences and critics.

“People said they were just hypnotized while watching my hands work the dough,” she said, laughing.

LaVecchia is set to reprise her role as Melucci in the upcoming production “Secondo,” aptly named after the second course in an Italian meal. While Melucci did not write a second part to her memoir, playwright Jacques Lamarre, who adapted the book for the stage, wrote the second part of Melucci’s story after spending some time with the author.

Melucci’s stories are different now that she’s married, but no less humorous, LaVecchia said. The actress will once again prepare a meal live in real time while playing the role.

The meal in “Secondo” will include a delectable Uovo in Raviolo, a delicate, singular ravioli made with fresh pasta and filled with an egg yolk and ricotta cheese.

LaVecchia is no stranger to cooking Italian food from scratch. She was born in Italy and lived there until she was about two years old, when her family relocated to the United States. After living briefly in Norwalk, the family moved to the Ziegler estate in Darien, where her father was caretaker of the property.

The Great Island estate recently made headlines when one half of its sprawling waterfront was put up for sale —the town has initiated acquiring it for $100 million. 

The plot of “Secondo” is Melucci cooks a meal for her husband to celebrate the couple’s 10th wedding anniversary. 

“Someone in her past comes back and she has a conflict — she loves her husband, and her husband loves her,” LaVecchia said.

However, in the play, Melucci’s husband is busy with his own business endeavors. 

“She never realized she’d be lonely in her marriage — it doesn’t quite live up to the fantasy she had of married life,” LaVecchia said. 

While she had not made homemade pasta since she was 15 years old, LaVecchia said it all came back to her during rehearsals. 

“Food is a love language,” she said. 

This was also evidenced by random marriage proposals she received from good-humored married men during the first production. Their wives told the actress, “You can have him!”

“I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti” was extremely successful, attended by local state leaders and even the mayor of Limerick County, Ireland.

“It was one of the most extraordinary performances I’ve done as a performer,” LaVecchia said. And with her resume, that’s saying something. 

After receiving a bachelor’s in English literature from Cornell University, she pursued a master’s of fine arts at NYU's Tisch Graduate Acting Program; while there she studied Chekhov at the Moscow Art Theater.  

After graduation, LaVecchia was awarded a Fox Fellowship and chose to study with world-renowned clown/bouffon teacher Philippe Gaulier and members of Complicité, a theatre company in London. She also received the Anna Sosenko Assist Trust Grant to help further her development as a writer/performer.

LaVecchia has appeared in film, television and on stage, including Broadway. Her critically-acclaimed comedic one-woman show, “How to Be a Good Italian Daughter (In Spite of Myself),” directed by Ted Sod, ran to sold-out audiences at The Cherry Lane Studio Theatre in New York City after a sold-out performance at Ars Nova.

LaVecchia partially credits growing up with the magical backdrop of Great Island for her creative inspiration, though she truly feels she was born with it.

“When I was still in Italy, my mom would put us out on the terrace while she cleaned, and I’d be waving and greeting everyone walking by,” she said.

Growing up on the estate, LaVecchia was the only girl among boys. She would often find herself alone on the shoreline, with only her imagination to keep her company. 

“It was fostered there,” she said. “In that place, with low rocks by the cliff, I would read and act out books by myself,” 

Great Island’s isolation from the rest of the town made the family feel like they never left Italy. Their residence mainly spoke Italian, so it was as though they still lived in the Italian countryside. 

While later on, as a teenager, it felt a bit more restrictive, hindsight makes LaVecchia reflect on how truly fortunate she was.

“I was sad when I heard they were going to sell it. That’s truly where I grew up. I have a heart relationship with that place. It would be a wonderful idea to make it a nature preserve (since) there are so many animals — songbirds, eagles, deer, egrets and more,” she said.

In her childhood the estate even had cows and of horses, as it includes a stable. 

“Please don’t make it a parking lot,” she implored the town. 

LaVecchia said nature is a true healer for her and something her parents, who moved off the estate 10 years ago, instilled in her.

“My parents have tremendous green thumbs,” she said. “They grow everything; vegetables, flowers — everything.” 

LaVecchia acknowledged the opportunities she and her brother had growing up in Darien. 

“It provided me the ability to go to Darien public schools, which were like private schools. My brother went to Wharton, and I went to Cornell. My dad really created an environment for us to succeed,” she said. 

Additionally, the idyllic atmosphere on Great Island enabled her to maintain a certain childlike innocence that she retains and taps into today. 

“I think that is unusual today. When I taught acting, I told my students to try to be more childlike and filled with wonder, not as cynical. You don’t have to be an actor to try to rediscover that feeling,” LaVecchia said. 

Once Great Island is open to the public, her dream would be to hold an outdoor theater production there, like “The Cherry Orchard” — in some ways realizing her dreams where it all began. 

“It’s truly one of the most beautiful places in the world,” LaVecchia said.

“Secondo” opens at TheaterWorks in Hartford on July 29 and runs through August. For more information, visit