The second episode of Netflix’s new drama From Scratch based on Tembi Locke‘s heart-wrenching memoir about her love journey with her late husband has the young couple move to Los Angeles for a fresh start.
It’s November 2002 where Amy, played by Zoë Saldaña, and Lino, played by Eugenio Mastrandrea, have finally united in the City of Angels after an 18-month long-distance relationship. They live with Amy’s sister Zora, played by Danielle Deadwyler, as they look for jobs in their preferred fields. While Amy works in an upscale Hollywood art gallery with an international flair, Lino is only able to get a job at an American Italian restaurant that serves plates piled with questionable-looking spaghetti and meatballs.
WORKING FOR THE MAN
At the gallery, Amy sells a photographic piece featuring girls in burqas resembling basketball jerseys for Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. The fact she can recall Kobe’s fluency in Italian due to a military upbringing seals the deal with the man who says he’ll buy the piece. Office politics makes Amy’s boss upset, but the sale translates into a greater deal of respect.
On the other hand, Lino leaves work early because of slow days at the restaurant. He gets restless. As Thanksgiving approaches, he asks Zora if he could help with the grocery list. Lino heads to Jons, one of LA’s supermarket fixtures, for a trip where he discovers frozen corn dogs.
The scene features a Jons employee showcasing the corndog samples played by Nick Locke, the brother of author Tembi and their showrunner sister Attica Locke, who’s also an award-winning mystery novelist. Their other brother, Doug Locke, makes a cameo as a receptionist at the art gallery. When Lino and Zora bond over the grocery list, one of Tembi’s first TV appearances in a 1994 episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air plays in the background.
With Amy gaining the ranks at the art gallery, she asks her boss for an introduction to a top Italian restaurant chef who could hire Lino, an authentic Sicilian chef who has mastered Italian cuisine. Amy drives Lino to the interview. During the interview, the chef belittles Lino for his immigrant status and Sicilian ethnicity. Lino returns to Amy’s car, upset over the ordeal.
CULTURE NOT ACCEPTED
For Thanksgiving dinner, Lino, as the chef in the house, cooks the entire holiday meal. But when the family of Amy and Zora arrive looking for Black staples like macaroni and cheese, collard greens, and, of course, turkey with gravy, Lino’s Sicilian-inspired meal is pushed off the table to the windowsill, uneaten. On top of the failed job interview, Lino feels his culture is disappearing.
Over dinner, Amy’s mother Lynn, played by Kellita Smith, comments that she wants “Brown grandbabies” and asks Lino if his family approves of him cohabitating with Amy. Lino shares that his family hasn’t approved of him in a long time after he left home to attend university then dropped out to become a chef. But, yes, running to America to be with a Black woman who’s not Catholic adds a cherry on top to the disappointment.
After being bummed about the adjustment to his new home, Lino sits up in bed to a surprise bowl of hot grits. That’s what Amy calls the dish, but Lino calls it polenta. The boiled cornmeal is a shared delicacy in Texas and in Sicily; there are similarities between the two places and their two cultures. Earlier, Amy had gone to the restaurant looking for Lino, who had left before his shift ended. She notices his coworkers playing football, better known as soccer by Americans. It motivates Amy to bring Lino to an Italian American bar where he can bond with his work friends and new friends who share the same culture.
In the parking lot of the bar, Amy and Lino get carried by “Try a Little Tenderness” playing in the car. They start dancing behind the vehicle. Lino would listen to the blues while he cooked in Florence.
“In a city, where there is no center, I’m your center, you’re my center,” Amy says. Their dreams may never come true, but they will at least have each other.
Her knee is about to drop when Lino intercepts. He wants his knee to hit the concrete first, but Amy says no. She proposes marriage. Lino says yes. His friends are in the parking lot, too, and cheer for him. With the good news, he calls home. His father picks up the phone. He tells his father that he’s marrying Amy. His father disowns him.
In the book, Tembi and Saro, the inspiration for Lino, get married in New York City in front of a justice of peace due to his visa. Though their real-life proposal may not have been as romantic as the one portrayed on the show, they plan a wedding ceremony and reception in Florence. Amy and Lino do the same.