Who better to take fans on a culinary tour of Italy, than Lidia Matticchio Bastianich? Her new cookbook, Lidia's Italy (a companion to her new public television series of the same name) covers "ten places in Italy Lidia loves most": Istria, Trieste, Friuli, Padova and Treviso, Piemonte, Maremma, Rome, Naples, Sicily, and Puglia. In addition to 140 simple and delicious recipes, Lidia's Italy also offers a short introduction to each locale, featuring cultural treasures not to be missed (as defined by Lidia's daughter and coauthor, Tanya). For the cook as well as the armchair traveler, Lidia's Italy is a rich and satisfying gastronomic journey through Italy. --Daphne Durham
An Exclusive Video Message from Lidia
10 Second Interview: A Few Words with Lidia Matticchio Bastianich Q:
What new recipes, tips, and lessons do you have to share in Lidia's Italy
? Did you learn anything new while creating this book and the series? A:
There is so much in the Italian culinary tradition, that it amazes me. Every time I go back to Italy and visit another corner, I learn dozens upon dozens of recipes. And today's consumer is ever more educated about food. Cookbook readers want to be challenged by a recipe, and hence recipes that were once considered too traditional, such as "Bigoli" pasta from the Veneto or "Antico Peposo" braised beef with crushed peppercorns, from Maremma, are sought out today. Q:
What was it like to collaborate with your daughter Tanya to write this book? A:
For me to share and collaborate with my children is the greatest reward as a mother and a business woman. To have my children follow my passion and build upon it with their knowledge, spirit and passion affirms to me that they understand and appreciate my art and passion and want to carry on the tradition. My daughters passion for and knowledge of Italian art history is a natural compliment to Italian food and life. It is Italy! Q:
How did you start cooking and when did you know it was your calling? A:
I always loved being around food. I loved preparing and cooking it, as well as growing and producing it. As a child, I helped my grandma Rosa tend her garden, feed the animals and prepare the vegetables, eggs and cheeses to sell at market. I would also stay by her side when she cooked, helping her knead bread and make pasta and gnocchi. For me, touching and preparing food always felt good. I can still recall the silkiness of the pasta dough she made and strive for that texture when I make pasta at home and at my restaurants. Being introduced to food at a very young age, and carrying these culinary traditions with me, I'm sure had a great deal to do with my chosen profession. Q:
What is your favorite dish? A:
I do not have one favorite dish. That is like asking me which is my favorite child. I love them all the same, but for different reasons, and at different times. But if I were stranded on a deserted island, give me pasta for the rest of my life and I would be happy.
Italy with Lidia We asked Lidia to share her favorite itineraries for a few locales from her book, including Piedmont, Friuli, and Florence. Enjoy! Piedmont for Wine Lovers Day 1
: Journey through the magnificent rice fields, stopping to visit and have lunch with a producer in Vercelli to learn more about where the essential ingredient for risotto is grown, then slowly move into the hills of Piedmont known as the Langhe and Roero. Spend the afternoon wandering the streets of Alba. In the early evening depart for a visit to the Castle of Barolo for a tour and tasting in its dungeon cellar. Dinner is best at the nearby Locanda del Borgo Antico where the husband and wife team of Massimo and Luciana serve up top-notch Piedmontese food in their home. Day 2
: Tuesday is market day in Dogliani and affords the opportunity to experience a local Piedmontese market. Piedmont is well known for its many types of cheese. Occelli Agrinatura produces some of the best. This morning see their production and taste some of their exquisite products. Continue your morning with a visit to the cantina of a local Barolo producer. Lunch at the country restaurant Rosa dei Vini is fabulous, where locals enjoy authentic home-style meals. In the afternoon return once again to Alba for a dinner drink with the locals in its very active bars and find a good local place to delight in the capital of the truffle. Day 3
: Up at the crack of dawn, out with the dogs, embark upon a truffle hunt. Find a local trattoria and have lunch with the hunters and in the afternoon enjoy the sweeping vistas from the hill town of La Morra. Don't miss dinner at the charming La Contea. With the fire ablaze, Tonino keeps the atmosphere hopping and the food coming. Day 4
: This morning head to the city of Asti and enjoy strolling through the city. For lunch visit the local restaurant near the Braida Estate with a tasting of their production. In the afternoon sit in a piazza and enjoy the local production of Asti Spumante which has earned a bad reputation in the United States, but which has some excellent production in recent years. Day 5
: Depart this morning for the Saluzzo area outside of Torino to see one of the most magnificent fresco cycles in Italy in the Castello della Manta, where nine heroes and nine heroines await your arrival in courtly fashion in fresco. Have lunch in the charming town of Saluzzo and arrive in Torino in the early afternoon. Save the rest of the day for shopping or to experience the wonderful coffee houses that Torino is famous for. Day 6
: This morning learn about and visit the residences of the Kings of Italy: the magnificent Racconigi Castle a short distance outside of Torino and the palatial residence in the city of Torino. In the evening have your farewell dinner at La Prima Smarrita where owner and chef Moreno awaits your arrival.
Friuli Day 1
: Arrive in Trieste and check into the Duchi d'Aosta hotel. Start a historical walk through Trieste starting in Pza. Unita and heading for the canal that ends with the Church of San Antonio. Enjoy an evening drink the Pza. Unita` as the sun sets out on the water and head to Trattoria da Giovanni for a lively dinner. Day 2
: This morning we will depart for the Friulian countryside to visit the production of the important Montasio cheese and Prosciutto di San Daniele. Lunch should be at the renowned Subida in the hills near the Slovenia border. After lunch visit the star shaped city of Palmanova, walk around and stay for dinner. Day 3
: This morning wear comfortable shoes and begin your walk in Trieste by stopping at the roman amphitheater. Keep heading up hill for the Cathedral of San Giusto with the uneven façade and wonderful reliefs. Have lunch in the Carso hills at Savron and then continue towards Muggia and leave time to walk around the picturesque port and old Venetian town of Muggia followed by dinner in one of the regions best restaurants, Risorta. Day 4
: This morning depart for Grado and Aquilea, important centers for Early Christian history. Visit the Churches of S. Eufemia and S. Maria delle Grazie in Grado followed by lunch at Androna. Then continue to Aquilea where the Basilica holds some of the most important and magnificent early Christian mosaics. Return to Trieste in the late afternoon where the evening should be spent relaxing after such a busy day. Day 5
: This morning depart for Cividale del Friuli where you should visit the Museo Archeologico and the Tempietto Longobardo. Have lunch in the countryside at la Frasca before heading to the city of Udine where you should visit the Duomo and the Oratorio della Purita. Stop and see the quaint towns of Gemona and Venzone before heading back towards. Day 6
: This morning have a walking tour of Trieste famous for its pastries and coffee houses. Be sure to visit Caffe degli Specchi and La Bomboniera. In the afternoon visit the very moving site of San Saba, a concentration and refugee camp during World War II, now a museum. On the sade side outside of town, you can also visit the Illy coffee factory.
Florence Day 1
: You should visit the religious and civic centers of 14th and 15th century Florence. The Duomo or Cathedral is crowned with an engineering masterpiece, Brunelleschi's dome. Brunelleschi devised a system of pulleys and weights, chose his building materials and constructed a double dome, all the while looking to the Pantheon for inspiration, to create what was Italy's largest dome. Inside the Cathedral one will find the tombs and frescoes that decorate the interior, from famous figures on horse back to the elevating frescoes decorating the interior of the dome by Giorgio Vasari. At the Palazzo Vecchio, there are the unfinished frescoes by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo that were to decorate the walls. Then head to the first town hall and later prison, the Bargello, a museum that now houses sculpture by some of the Renaissance's most important artists such as Donatello and Michelangelo. Donatello's courageous St. George and Michelangelo's inebriated Bacchus are the highlights. For lunch, keep it light because you should head to Fabio Picchi's Cibreo tonight for dinner! Day 2
: This morning head to Florence's central market, the San Lorenzo market where you'll see specialties of the Tuscan gastronomic repertoire. Right around the corner is the church of San Lorenzo that contains Medici masterpiece tombs by Michelangelo. Michelangelo's muscular and overbearing figures appearing to be sliding off the tombs of Dukes Giuliano and Lorenzo, in their faces shadows of deep significance, the meaning of which scholars today are still uncertain of. Next door is the jewel like family chapel by Benozzo Gozzoli in the palace. After lunch, visit one of the world's finest art collections, the Uffizi Gallery, to see works by Lippi, Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo, among others followed by a visit through the Vasari corridor which was used to connect the Uffizi gallery (or Medici offices) the their residence, the Pitti Palace. Day 3
: This morning depart for the Chianti region and stop at Tuscany's most famous butcher, Dario Checchini, who butchers while singing or reciting Dante's Inferno. Visit the vineyard and cavernous cellars of Monsanto where the Bianchi family will greet you and allow you to taste their wines. Afterwards, visit the terracotta production center of Impruneta, where terracotta has been made since medieval times, and visit an artisan production of terracotta garden pots and wares. Day 4
: Depart this morning for San Gimignano, the town of towers, and for Colle Val D'Elsa, the largest crystal production in Europe, where artisans blow one of a kind crystal in a traditional fashion, a profession that has been passed on from generation to generation. Have lunch at the acclaimed Da Arnolfo and then continue onto Siena, the financial capital of medieval Italy. Visit the Palazzo Pubblico, outside of which the Sienese perform the traditional Palio horse race, and inside of which the Madonna reigns supreme. Marvel at the famous Guidoriccio fresco with its controversial attribution to Simone Martini, the Lorenzetti Good and Bad Government frescoes, and Simone Martini's Maesta'. Then head up the hill to the religious center of Siena, the Cathedral complex, and marvel at one of the most stunningly beautiful masterpieces of the Renaissance, the Piccolomini Library. Then head to the campo square and enjoy a gelato while watching the Sienese meet and their children play. Day 5
: Enjoy your last day in Florence. Head over to the museum of Orsanmichele in the morning to see the original statues by Ghiberti and Donatello and peak into the wonderful building that used to be a marketplace but now is a church. For lunch, enjoy a bowl of ribollita or pappa al pomodoro at one of the trattorias on Borgo San Jacopo. Then head up to Fiesole-up above Florence where the rich and famous live. Have a drink on the terrace of the Villa San Michele while overlooking the Duomo by Brunelleschi. Then enjoy a light dinner inside.
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From Publishers Weekly
Surely one of the secrets to Lidia Bastianich's success as a television personality is the high quality of her companion books. Bastianich's never seem like mere collections of stills from the show; they impart new information and are full of dishes even dedicated Italophiles may not know, such as Gnocchi Ravioli with Sausage-Spinach Filling and Sage Pudding. However, the concept for her latest show, and as a result this eponymous book, feels slightly haphazard. While Bastianich is to be applauded for overlooking the obvious Tuscan targets like Florence to concentrate instead on the region's less well-known natural beauty in the Maremma area with its mammoth national park, her "places" are inconsistent. They include single cities (Padova and Treviso) and whole regions (Piedmont). And while Bastianich's native Istria offers alluring specialties such as Fresh Pasta Quills with Chicken Sauce, it makes an odd subject for an opening chapter, since it is no longer part of Italy. Bastianich's daughter and coauthor, who runs an Italian tourism company, suggests a handful of sites to visit in each location, be it Spaccanapoli in Naples or a Cistercian abbey 35 miles outside of Turin. Bastianich is probably incapable of creating a truly bad book—the recipes are as functional as they are tempting—but this all-over-the-boot offering is not her best. (Apr.)
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