"Italian-American food--what cuisine is it?" asks Lidia Matticchio Bastianich in Lidia's Italian-American Cooking
, a cookbook based on her eponymous PBS TV series. The author of two previous works, La Cucina di Lidia
and Lidia's Italian Table
, and co-owner of three acclaimed Manhattan restaurants, Bastianich is ideally suited to explore all Italian fare. "Americans fell in love with Italian cooking first," she says, thus enshrining a cuisine born of immigrant adaptation. In celebration of that affection, the book offers over 150 recipes for a wide range of dishes--traditional favorites like Baked Stuffed Shells and Lobster Fra Diavolo as well as personal adaptations such as Scampi alla Buonavia and canneloni made with roasted pork and mortadella. These easily done dishes benefit from Lidia's subtle polishing; fans of her foolproof palate and her direct yet relaxed approach to Italian cooking will welcome the book.
In chapters that reflect the courses of a traditional Italian meal, from antipasti through soups, pasta and risottos, and dolci, Lidia presents a wealth of good everyday eating. In addition to exemplary renditions of Italian-American favorites, Lidia offers "new" Italian regional dishes, such as Long Fusilli with Saffron, Mussels, and Zucchini. Soups, a Lidia specialty, are enticingly represented with the likes of Potato, Swiss Chard, and Bread Soup. And of course there are splendid dolci--favorites like Ricotta Cheesecake, but also treats like San Martino Pear and Chocolate Tart. Throughout, Bastianich provides useful sidebars, such as one on scallopine, and fully illustrated technical instruction, detailing, for example, the best way to stuff a veal chop. With color photos of the mouthwatering dishes, tips, and other cooking insights, the book is a valuable guide to an oft-debased fare finally given its due. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
Despite a misleading title (the book offers few stereotypical restaurant-style dishes), readers will be slightly charmed by the book's actual contents (mainly recipes for straight Italian classics) and its author that they'll quickly forget any disappointment. Bastianich (La Cucina di Lidia), owner of several restaurants, is simultaneously a beguiling storyteller and a no-nonsense guide. Alongside classics like Tri-Color Salad with Arugula and Radicchio and a more unusual Salad of Dandelion Greens with Almond Vinaigrette and Dried Ricotta, Bastianich provides sidebars on beans, capers and many other ingredients. She also waxes personal: a native of Istria, the region given to Yugoslavia after WWII, she emigrated in 1958 and opened her first restaurant in 1971 at age 24. The stars here, though, are the recipes. Pasta dishes such as Cavatelli with Bread Crumbs, Pancetta, and Cauliflower, and Orecchiette with Braised Artichokes, make fine use of fresh vegetables. Recipes are divided into antipasto, soups, pasta and risotto, pizza, entres, side dishes and desserts. Desserts include a San Martino Pear and Chocolate Tart and a rich Chocolate Soup from Udine. Bastianich includes restaurant-style Italian-American food such as Spaghetti and Meatballs, and Lobster fra Diavolo with Spaghettini, although she can't resist reducing the latter's sauce to more "Italian" proportions. Color and b&w photos. (Nov. 12)Forecasts: This companion to a PBS series has a built-in readership, not to mention Bastianich's following from her New York, Kansas City and Pittsburgh restaurants. Expect strong sales.
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