Gina DePalma is the pastry chef at Manhattan's Babbo, home of Mario Batali's most acclaimed Italian fare. In Dolce Italiano, DePalma offers 90-plus doable recipes for a wide range of traditional and signature Italian sweets, such as Chocolate and Walnut Torte from Capri, Venetian Apple Cake, and Sesame and White Corn Biscotti. DePalma also provides illuminating asides on techniques and ingredients, including information on such "indispensable" items as honey, ricotta, mascarpone and grappa. Particularly notable chapters explore fried and festival sweets.
DePalma writes passionately about "dolce," revealing at one point her obsessive attempt to track down the best ricotta cheesecake. Most readers will share her attraction to the Italian dessert repertoire, which, though it lacks the richness and invention of, say, its French equivalent, appeals through simple good taste. Readers seeking a thorough introduction to Italian dessert making, presented in the context of its bounteous history and the authors devotion to her subject, can do no better than to explore Dolce Italiano. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. DePalma, pastry chef at upscale Italian restaurant Babbo in New York City (owner Mario Batali contributes a foreword), approaches Italian-American desserts from three directions: traditional Italian (Polenta Cookies from the Veneto); Italian-American, learned at the elbow of her Calabrese grandmother (in a charming introduction, DePalma recalls how her grandmother used to visit her family in Virginia, stepping off the plane from New York bearing hunks of cheese, cans of olive oil and DePalma's favorite taralli); and what are best described as American-Italian. The latter are true hybrid desserts, such as a crustless Yogurt Cheesecake with Pine Nut Brittle, which combines mascarpone and the Greek-style yogurt now widely available in U.S. grocery stores. This concoction has probably never appeared on any menu in Italy, but it successfully marries ingredients and techniques from both places, without losing sight of the genuine quality that is the hallmark of Italian food. DePalma's tone is genuine, too, whether she's recalling how she woke up in the middle of the night in her Brooklyn apartment to obsess over a lemon tart or patiently explaining why real balsamic vinegar is costly, but worth it. (Oct.)
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