How Tembi Locke’s Serendipitous Love Story Inspired Netflix’s New Series, ‘From Scratch’

The true story behind the show.
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Netflix’s latest series, From Scratch, has all the makings of a rom-com. There’s a meet-cute, a love arch and there’s heartbreak in between, it’s no wonder the show is nearing the top of the streaming platform’s most-watched list mere days after its release. 

But even more interesting is that it’s based on the true story of Tembi Locke, an actor and author who penned a memoir, From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home, based on her journey with her husband of 17 years, Saro Gullo. Locke’s sister, renowned novelist Attica Locke co-wrote the Netflix script with her. 

In the series, the lead character main character Amy Wheeler (played by Zoe Saldaña) meets and falls in love with Lino Ortolano (played by Eugenio Mastrandrea) while on a trip to Florence. The painter and chef, respectively, face numerous challenges due to their different cultural backgrounds and contrasting living circumstances, but despite it all, they make their relationship work. Then, things take a devastating turn when Lino is diagnosed with cancer, and the future they fought for suddenly becomes uncertain. 

So what really happened to Locke and her husband? Below, we recount their true story.

Tembi Locke with Zoe Saldaña at the premiere of ‘From Scratch’. (Credit: Getty)

The True Story Behind From Scratch 

Locke was studying abroad in Italy when she chanced upon Saro Gullo, a local chef who helped her find her bike after it was stolen. 

Locke recalled Gullo telling her at the time, “I think we could be something great,” and she was pleasantly surprised by his surety. 

“It suddenly seemed as right as butter on bread. I was taken aback by his boldness, his certainty.” 

In the series, Amy’s apartment in Florence was located right next to the real life apartment Locke lived in when she first met Gullo. The local bar used to film Lino and Amy’s meet-cute was also the very same bar Gullo owned with his friend.

Locke eventually moved back to the US while Gullo continued working as a chef in Florence, but the pair didn’t let the distance stop them from keeping in close contact. Eventually, they reunited in New York City (which was tweaked to be Los Angeles in the series). The pair then moved to LA together so that Locke could forge a career in Hollywood, and they married in 1995. 

Locke said of their relationship that Gullo “soothed the places I hadn’t known needed soothing, seemed perfectly willing to embrace the parts of me that were wanton, unsettled, unfinished, and contradictory.”

Locke with her sister, Attica. (Credit: Getty)

Saro Gullo’s Cancer Diagnosis

Gullo was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer, in 2002. He underwent 10 years of treatment, with Locke looking after him every step of the way. Gullo eventually passed away from the illness in 2012. 

They Adopted A Daughter In Real Life 

During his treatment, Gullo and Locke adopted a daughter, Zoela.

“We’d always wanted to be parents,” she told Today in 2019, adding that they forged ahead despite Gullo’s declining health: “One of the things that I learned is life is still happening all around us and for us.” 

In the series, Amy and Lino adopt a baby girl named Idalia. Interestingly, Zoela herself helped to create the character. 

“My daughter picked the name of Idalia,” Locke told the outlet. “We had fun creating these alternate versions of us.” 

In a beautiful anecdote, Locke revealed that there’s a subtle message that only Zoela will understand from her father to her in the Netflix series. 

“There’s an audible Easter egg in the series for her so that when she watches it, she’s going to hear a message from her dad to her.”

Locke and her daughter, Zoela. (Credit: Getty)

The Meaning Behind The Character’s Names

While the series is based on a true story, Locke changed the character’s names in order to give “psychic distance” between herself and her onscreen counterpart. Still, she selected names that had a very special meaning to her. 

Amy is short for South African name, Amahle. Tembi, whose full name is Tembekile, was often called Tammy when she grew up. 

“Amy’s name was a wink and a nod to having an Afrocentric name and the ways in which it changes. But her parents always call her Amahle,” Locke explained in the same interview. Meanwhile Locke’s sister chose to name Amy’s sister Zora, named after the famous writer Zora Neale Hurston to reflect her beloved line of work. 

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