Netflix’s From Scratch Is Based On A Heart-Wrenching True Story

Love, loss, and lots of good food.

Eugenio Mastrandrea as Lino Ortolano and Zoe Saldana as Amy Wheeler hold their daughter in Episode 6...
Jessica Brooks/Netflix

After Little Fires Everywhere, Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine production company tackles yet another tale of love and loss with From Scratch. The Netflix series follows Amahle "Amy" Wheeler (Zoe Saldaña), an American student who travels to Italy to study art. While there, she falls in love with a Sicilian chef named Lino (Eugenio Mastrandrea), and the two have a whirlwind romance. The show follows them as they overcome cultural differences and adopt a daughter, only to be faced with Lino’s cancer diagnosis.

Billed as a limited series, it’s unlikely that From Scratch will have a Season 2. There’s a very good reason for that: the show is based on the true story of the life of Tembi Locke, who produced the show alongside her sister Attica Locke. Her book, From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home, tells the story of how she went to Florence when she was 20 and met Saro, a Sicilian chef whose family initially rejected her because she was Black and an American actor. (She’s starred in Never Have I Ever, Windfall, and Eureka.) The book depicts their 20-year romance while also showing how she and her daughter, Zoela, coped with Saro’s passing after he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, leiomyosarcoma.

While there are some details that were changed, From Scratch stays largely true to Tembi’s experiences. Attica told Entertainment Weekly that they had a “north star” to the project, which was starting the story with “young, passionate, erotic love” and then moving into showing how “Amy and Lino were going to grow up and have to deal with all this stuff with the family.” She said they also knew Amy’s daughter, Idalia, would be an integral part of the story as the pair returns to Sicily together to connect with Lino’s family. “Once we had that spine, we knew that everything else could be kind of fictionalized, as long as it didn't take us off that spine. By changing the names of the characters, that allowed them to be of the actual people, but free to move about the cabin in their own kind of way,” she said.

Jessica Brooks/Netflix

After Saro passed away, Tembi started the successful cooking website The Kitchen Widow, which doles out both delicious recipes and advice on grieving. Similarly, From Scratch pays homage to Saro’s memory through food. “What we wanted to convey on screen was the sense of food as a love language, first and foremost. Be it as simple as a corn dog or the smoked turkey,” Tembi told Entertainment Weekly. “Everyone is using food as a love language. I write about this in the book, how the table becomes the centerpiece around which you hash things out. You mend fences. You aspire together. You reveal your deepest vulnerabilities. And it's all playing out over food and over a meal.”

“When I cook, he’s very much with me,” Tembi told KTLA5’s Frank Buckley. “You can imagine for me, after he passed, my kitchen fell silent. Finding my way back into that space and then trying to feed myself and my daughter in grief ... reawakening my palate was a big effort, and I really had to ask for his help. I had to say, Sado, what do I do? Because he had done most of the cooking, for the most part,” she said. “I did have twenty years with him. I do know a lot, and he’s still with us.”

“I’ll never not miss him. It’s impossible,” she added. “But I’ve found a way to keep him close.”