Netflix viewers are moving on from watching The Watcher to a new series: From Scratch. The romantic drama starring Zoe Saldaña has ascended to the No. 1 spot on the weekly Netflix Top 10 list, surging past the true crime hit that reigned for the two previous weeks.
From Scratch, which debuted Oct. 21, is a bit of a surprise as the Netflix No. 1 show. It comes on the heels of two true crime dramas (The Watcher and Dahmer), and beat out the high-profile horror anthology Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities — and during the week before Halloween, no less.
Perhaps it's not that astonishing, since From Scratch has earned a glowing 92% Rotten Tomatoes rating and 90% audience score. Looks like viewers are over spooky season and are in the mood for tearjerking romance. It's certainly going to rate among our list of best Netflix shows.
What is From Scratch about?
This cross-cultural love story is half cute, lighthearted romp and half serious, weepy drama. Amy (Zoe Saldaña) is a law school dropout pursuing her artistic dreams in Florence, Italy, despite the misgivings of her family.
There, she meets and falls in love with handsome Sicilian chef Lino (Eugenio Mastrandrea). Their romance is not without impediments, though. First, Amy is wooed by another suitor, the dashing gallery owner Giancarlo (Giacomo Gianniotti). Then, her family, particularly dad Hershel (Keith David), isn't exactly on-board with Amy's art career or relationship with an Italian man. Plus, Lino's own father, Giacomo (Paride Benassai), vehemently disapproves of his son's life choices.
Still, Amy and Lino manage to overcome these obstacles. He follows Amy to Los Angeles, where they try to build a life together. Career complications and family issues continue to rear up, but their passion for each other prevails. That is, until a health crisis completely upends their lives.
Is From Scratch based on a true story?
From Scratch is based on a true story, as told in Tembi Locke's memoir of the same name. It was selected as part of Reese Witherspoon's book club in April 2019. Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine production company then optioned the memoir, and Locke and her sister, Attica, adapted the book themselves into the series.
As in the show, Locke moved to Florence in the 1990s. There, she fell in love with Sicilian chef Rosario "Saro" Gullo.
While Locke chose to alter the names and some facts, other things remained as close to her own story as possible. They also experienced their families' disapproval of the relationship. Just like Tembi is short for Tembekile, Amy's name is short for Amahle.
The apartment that Amy lives in is even next to Locke's former flat. "It's literally the exact piazza I lived in," she told the Today show.
Another scene sees Amy trying to cook for Lino. Locke told Eater it was inspired by a real date with Gullo. "I was certainly not prepared to do that level of cooking, and I botched it," she said.
Amy and Lino's health crisis mirror the one that Locke and Gullo experienced.
What do critics say about From Scratch?
From Scratch reviews are fairly positive, resulting in a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The consensus reads, "By turns a buoyant and wistful romance, From Scratch is an emotionally resonant miniseries that benefits from its Italian scenery and Zoe Saldaña's considerable dramatic chops."
Angie Han of The Hollywood Reporter writes, "If you’re in the mood to swoon a little, weep a little and order too much Italian food on Postmates, From Scratch is a perfectly nice way to while away the weekend."
Variety's Caroline Framke was "all too ready to slip into a warm bath of a show" and says, "Netflix’s unabashedly sentimental new limited series is just that — at least at first. What begins as a swoony romance in its first episodes becomes a heartrending story of loss and resilience by its last. Frankly, I never stood a chance."
Robert Lloyd of The Los Angeles Times is a bit more cynical, calling it "fundamentally an expensive, well-acted, nicely written, very long Lifetime/Hallmark movie, what the Hollywood trades used to call a “weepie.”
And AV Club's Manuel Betancourt writes, "Perhaps it’s best to understand it as comfort food of a television show that only sometimes feels algorithmically created. (It’s for the foodie/travel lover in your life who enjoys Chef’s Table and Under The Tuscan Sun, with a dash of A Walk To Remember.)"
Should you stream From Scratch?
I binged all of From Scratch in a long plane ride and enjoyed it thoroughly. Like other reviews note, it's a veritable feast of genres. You get the meet-cute of a romantic comedy, complex race and family dynamics, career maneuverings and heart-tugging tragedy.
Throw in some gorgeous scenery, mouth-watering food shots and tasteful sex scenes, and From Scratch really does seem like it has it all — the better to game the algorithm.
Yet, this is a show that really has soul. A lot of that is due to the passionate performances by Saldaña and Mastrandrea as the leads, as well as the excellent supporting work by the rest of the cast.
From Scratch brilliantly translates Locke's memoir into a living, breathing television depiction. When I watched, the eight episodes (under 55 minutes each) flew by as I flew across the ocean. I highly recommend having a tissue or five handy when you binge it.
Next: The best romantic movies on Netflix