If you’ve watched Bobby & Giada in Italy you know that Bobby Flay is a huge fan. "[Giada’s] mom is literally one of my favorite people in the world," Bobby gushes, "She’s funny as can be, she has an opinion about everything, and she has crazy great knowledge (via Delish)." Giada’s mom, Veronica De Laurentiis, is 71 years young at the time of this writing. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that she’s retired. Veronica De Laurentiis is an author, actor, and domestic violence activist (via VeronicaDeLaurentiis.com). When she’s not working, you’ll find traces of her other passions on Instagram: walks along the Malibu pier, gazing at Catalina Island, California from her porch, growing fresh tomatoes in her garden, and jamming out to Neil Young.
Fans of Italian cinema will recognize Veronica as an 18-year-old in Waterloo, a film that her famous father produced. "I found myself under the lights in front of the camera and my fear disappeared. I felt like this is what I was meant to do," Veronica De Laurentiis reflected when speaking to Italian Cinema Today. The public, who watched her perform in the film, might have assumed she was following in her mother, the Italian cinema legend Silvana Mangano’s footsteps. But despite Veronica De Laurentiis’s passion for the profession, and her family’s success in the cinema world, she soon gave up acting to marry.
Why Veronica De Laurentiis gave up acting for 2 decades
Veronica De Laurentiis’s first marriage is not a love story. It was the result of childhood trauma. "I grew up thinking that I could not take care of myself. I always had to please others and do what I was told," De Laurentiis told Italian Cinema Today. For starters, there was her mother. Silvana Mangano might have taken the Italian cinema by storm. But the "sensual" reputation she crafted within the industry was, as per The New York Times, starkly at odds with her private life. Veronica De Laurentiis described her mother as "sad and depressed." When she was 14, her mother tried to commit suicide, according to a la Repubblica article published in Italian that Google graciously translated. So Veronica shouldered responsibility for her mother’s happiness.
"I grew up as a little girl who was scared," De Laurentiis told Italian Cinema Today, "My mom was a perfectionist and my dad told everyone what to do." And because her parents wanted her to become a housewife, Veronica gave up acting. Instead, she married into the industry: to actor and producer, Alex De Benedetti. Even after divorcing her husband, it would be years until she could return to acting (via VeronicaDeLaurentiis.com). With four children to support, she opened a fashion design studio.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
A struggle with gender-based violence
"Silence is like cancer, it destroys you slowly without you even realizing it," Veronica De Laurentiis explains in a YouTube video. She knows because she tried it. She was only 18 when an older man raped her. But, as she told Italian Cinema Today, she " kept it a secret." When she married, her husband abused not only her but her children. According to a Los Angeles Times expose, Alex De Benedetti liked "intimidating" his family with the guns he collected. In 1991, De Benedetti received a 14-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to crimes committed against a minor.
Veronica De Laurentiis broke her silence in the form of a memoir in 2006. Her book tours changed her life. "Women came forth and told me their stories, and it helped me to heal myself. So, I decided to start a support group at my house," she explained to Italian Cinema Today. So she opened a non-profit, ONLUS, which exits, in her words, to "give a second chance to all victims of violence, abuse, and stalking." In part, that’s thanks to her mother, Silvana Mangano. "’It is you, Veronica. It is you who will end the cycle of abuse in this family … It is you who will heal all of us,’" she recalled Mangano telling her (via VeronicaDeLaurentiis.com).
The lesson she taught her daughter, Giada
Had it not been for Veronica, Giada De Laurentiis might never have finished cooking school at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. "When you make mistakes [the instructors are] abusive," the celebrity chef told Parade of her experience at the school. "I was so desperately lonely," De Laurentiis recounted. So she called her mother and asked whether she could come home. Veronica shut the door on that idea. "She said, ‘If you come home, we will not support you. You’re cut off."
Because she made the mistake of giving up her dreams to become a housewife, Veronica De Laurentiis did not let her daughter do the same. And so Giada De Laurentiis stuck it out and graduated. In the celebrity chef’s own words, she "hated [her mother] for a while after that." But not for the long haul. One need only look at the mother and daughter smiling together on Instagram to know that the two De Laurentiis powerhouses are close these days.
Veronica’s return to acting
Veronica De Laurentiis didn’t just push her daughter to follow her professional goals: she did the same for herself. "When I decided to go back to acting … everyone told me I was crazy, including my father," she recounted to Italian Cinema Today. It paid off. "I stopped being depressed and I felt good about myself," she recalled. She was 40 years old and newly remarried to the film producer Ivan Kavalsky. After two years of intensive acting classes, she started getting parts.
Check her out as Anastasia in the Italian drama Wedding Day (2012), or as Angelina (Reggio’s wife) in the 2006 thriller 10th & Wolf (via IMDb). "Fame is in my blood, my passion is acting," De Laurentiis affirmed in an interview with Your Entertainment Ticket (via YouTube), " I like movies that tell a story, I like movies that give a message because it’s such an easy way to reach a lot of people."
Does Veronica De Laurentiis cook?
Giada De Laurentiis may have inherited her charm on screen from her mother (or her Grandmother). But if you’re asking yourself whether she inherited her cooking abilities from her mother as well, we’d give it a solid "maybe." The Scoop LA featured Veronica on an episode of Real American Meals. "I am not a chef," she says during it, "I improvise when I cook. I see what’s in the refrigerator and I do variations of it." (If De Laurentiis is responsible for the meatballs and fries or pizza margaritas, or soft boiled eggs on toast with smoked salmon on her Instagram page, she does a pretty good job of it.)
As for Giada, she told Today that her mother taught her how to use leftovers. "She had a lot of mouths to feed between my siblings and I, so no food went wasted," she explained, giving the media platform Veronica’s "go-to" for leftover pasta. We haven’t tried it, but Veronica De Laurentiis’s pasta pizza looks spectacular (via Giadzy). And while Giada’s recipe calls for salami prosciutto, ham, frozen edamame, and chopped cooked broccoli, none of those are really musts. "You can use any combination of cooked pasta, vegetables and cheese that you have on hand," De Laurentiis assured Today, "making it a real lifesaver for any busy mom."