My friend – our friend – Matthew Locricchio was the loveliest, warmest, funniest and most generous and talented man. You’ll probably have gathered from the past tense that Matthew is no longer with us. You’d be right but in another way you couldn’t be more wrong.
I don’t want this to be mawkish. Matthew has died after battles with Parkinson’s Disease and cancer and he will be sorely missed by his husband Richard, his wider family and his many friends. But I don’t want this to be about his illnesses. I want to talk about Matthew and his huge capacity for living. A lot of that involved food and everything that revolves around it.
I first met Matthew in New York when I was visiting with the man who became my husband. Were we already married? I can’t remember but I do remember Matthew taking me under his wing. We’d just arrived in NYC and had arranged to meet Matthew and Richard in a very glittery restaurant.
I was feeling shy but Matthew drew me out, got me talking and laughing and by the end of the night he was my new best friend. I think he had that effect on a lot of people. We stayed up so late I fell asleep during an opera at the Met the next night.
We always looked them up every time we went to New York and went on, during a later visit, to stay with them at a house they had in Stuyvesant in north New York State. We visited the farmers’ market, we admired the fall colours, I trawled the antique shops (I still treasure a lovely old hand-made patchwork quilt) but my shopping was cut short because Matthew was impatient to go home to cook lunch. I don’t curtail my retail therapy for many people but Matthew was one of the best cooks I’ve ever met. He could whip up the most delicious meal and make it look effortless.
I remember his humour, friendship and open-handed generosity; his boundless energy; I remember sitting around a table talking about everything from theatre and politics to, inevitably, recipes and ingredients and the best sort of pans (Matthew adored his cast iron skillets and nobly refrained from throwing me out when I helpfully scrubbed them and endangered the lovingly built-up patina).
I remember us winding the car window down and shouting rude things at placard-bearing ultra right-wingers, to the silent embarrassment of both our partners; Richard playing the piano as Matthew cooked; Matthew pointing us towards the best New York restaurants; him proving I was wrong to dislike turnips when the tiny white ones from the farmers’ market made such a divine puree …. I could go on but you get my drift.
He even got my husband to eat pasta and enjoy it: there is no greater tribute. Somewhere I still have his recipe for spaghetti carbonara I scribbled down at the time. It was so good. I wish I had more and better pictures of him but you don’t need photographs to remember someone like Matthew.
Born in Detroit, Michigan, of a Sicilian-American background, he honed his love of food helping out in family restaurants before going on to study at the American Conservatory Theater. He made a 30 year career of acting, in theatre, films and television before re-inventing himself as a cookery writer. His recipe books for children and teens won several international awards … I bought one for a niece and it was so good I got another copy for myself. His books have a prominent place on my shelves.
Matthew happily let me use several of his recipes on these pages – his tomato and cheese pie is utterly delicious and so is his tomatillo salsa, but you can hear his voice best, if briefly, in a post I wrote about making vino cotto. It gives you an idea of his infectious enthusiasm for food, his warmth and generosity (words I find myself using over and over in remembering him) and his vast capacity for enjoyment.
I cried for hours when I heard he had died, I’m crying now, but Matthew lives on in his on-screen work, in his books and in our memories. Gone, but never, ever forgotten. And to Richard, his husband, our heartfelt love and sympathy.