Bridgehampton's Lorraine Bracco, whose work includes an Academy Award nomination for her role in Martin Scorsese's "Goodfellas" and four Emmy nominations for HBO's "The Sopranos," renovates a nearly 200-year-old Sicilian town house in HGTV's new reality-TV series "My Big Italian Adventure," premiering Friday at 9 p.m.
The 66-year-old actress, who was raised in Westbury, had bought the property in the town of Sambuca di Sicilia in a widely publicized offer by the local government to sell abandoned homes for 1 euro (about $1.18) — with the caveat that renovation must be completed within three years. Since the house had no electricity, running water, kitchen or bathrooms, and needed to be gutted due to its deteriorating floors, crumbling walls and dilapidated roof, the job, true to the title, was both big and an adventure.
"Look," Bracco laughs, speaking by phone from her Hamptons home, "it's like my children when I told them I'm going to buy this 1-euro house in Sicily. They both looked at me and said, 'Well, mom, it's crazier than anything else you've done!' "
Virtually none of the 16 houses that the town sold in May 2019 went for 1 euro literally — that was the starting bid for blind auctions that eventually saw the properties go for between 1,000 and 25,000 euros (about $1,181 to $29,534), according to town records available online. But Bracco did get lot 7, at 22 Via Guglielmo Marconi, for only 1 euro, partly due to her celebrity and partly to the prospect of a TV series — the records say the lot was "reserved for television operators."
"Listen, I used it!" Bracco says happily of leveraging her fame. "I'll be truthful — I'm not above it. I did write in the letter to the mayor that I was an Italian-American actress. I did — I used it!"
However, neither "Goodfellas" nor "The Sopranos" had been especially popular in Italy, Bracco says. "But what was really helpful was 'Rizzoli & Isles.' That was a huge hit" — and Angie Harmon, who played her daughter in that 2010-16 TNT police procedural, happens to be a friend who appears on "My Big Italian Adventure." So does Bracco's buddy Monica Castellanos, her producing partner for more than 20 years and currently director of operations and COVID-19 compliance officer at The Surf Lodge, in Montauk.
There were fees and deposits, of course, in addition to the 1 euro, and the 5-month gut renovation cost Bracco 87,000 euros, according to the show. Because the house was small, Bracco also purchased the renovated home next door for 45,000 euros, combining the two buildings and bringing the total to 132,000 euros (about $145,201) — at least as budgeted; Bracco says the final cost was perhaps twice that.
The show includes the town's bemused mayor, Leonardo Ciaccio, as well as architect Domenico Carì and contractor Piero Verardo and his translator wife, Cynthia Trejo Verardo. Also appearing are Bracco's daughter Margaux, whose father was the star's first husband, French businessman Daniel Guerard, and son-in-law Deric Bradford. Bracco's younger daughter, Stella, whose father is actor Harvey Keitel, "did not want to be on camera" for professional reasons, Bracco says.
And although she'll have a vacation home in Sicily, Bracco's heart remains on Long Island. "I love Long Island. Always have," says the 1972 Hicksville High School graduate, who grew up "on Burns Avenue . . . two minutes from Westbury Music Fair," adding, "I loved Cantiague Park." Her only complaint? The Long Island Expressway, she says — conceding that Los Angeles traffic is worse. "After living in California, I said to myself never to complain about the LIE ever again!"