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Mike Isabella's Crazy Good Italian: Big Flavors, Small Plates Hardcover – September 25, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Every Day with Rachael Ray, September 2012
“What do you get when you cross a Top Chef All-Star with an Italian-American childhood? Isabella’s first cookbook, which includes family traditions (check out Grandma’s potato gnocchi) and the chef’s own creations (remember that pepperoni sauce from Top Chef?). It’s a mix that totally says deizioso.”

DailyCandy.com, 9/18/12
“Mike Isabella’s talent for upending the ordinary (hello, pepperoni sauce) lit up two seasons of Top Chef. He spills his secrets—and some of his Nonna’s, too—in his debut cookbook, Mike Isabella’s Crazy Good Italian, a collection of 200 lip-smacking recipes.”

New Jersey Monthly, October 2012
“Well organized, crisply written and handsomely produced, it ranges from Jersey Shore-style fried food to family recipes from Antoinette and others to his own lively take on Italian classics.”

Portland Oregonian, 10/1/12
“In the history of the TV reality cooking competition ‘Top Chef,’ there are few contestants who were as lovingly obnoxious as Washington, D.C.'s Mike Isabella. But his first cookbook is so impressive it makes you forget all the earthy behavior that was caught on camera…He's given these dishes plenty of modern twists without making them fussy. The result is a free-wheeling cookbook that's infused with the spirit of fun.”

San Jose Mercury News, 10/10/12
“No doubting the guy’s mad kitchen skills [and] it was his larger-than-life personality, little-brother peskiness and soulful Italian cuisine that made him so noticeable.”

Publishers Weekly, 11/5/12
“Isabella revs up the classics with a distinctive spin.”

Named one of Washington Post “Top Cookbooks of 2012”

An NPR.org “Year End Cookbook List” Honorable Mention

Named to the
Bay Area Publications/ McClatchy News Wire “Holiday Gift Guide for Foodies”

About the Author

Mike Isabella is the Chef/Owner of Graffiato, which opened in June 2011 in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The 130-seat Italian-inspired spot features small plates, locally cured meats, artisanal pizzas, and pastas with seasonal ingredients influenced by the food Chef Isabella grew up eating in New Jersey prepared by his Italian-American grandmother.

For the past 15 years, he has worked for some of the world’s most renowned chefs and cooked to critical acclaim at restaurants all over the country. Before opening Graffiato, Chef Isabella was the executive chef of José Andrés’ Zaytinya. During his three-year tenure, Chef Isabella generated accolades and national attention for Washington, D.C.’s Mediterranean powerhouse restaurant. Chef Isabella’s formal training began at The Restaurant School in New York. He has worked as a sous chef for James Beard Award winner Douglas Rodriguez at Alma de Cuba in Philadelphia and as Executive Sous Chef of Marcus Samuelsson’s Washington Square.

Outside the kitchen, Chef Isabella recently appeared on Season Six of Top Chef (Las Vegas), and he was the runner-up on Top Chef All-Stars.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong Books (September 25, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 073821566X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738215662
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 7.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,287 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Diane VINE VOICE on September 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Bravo TV's Top Chef fans will recognize the name Mike Isabella. On his first go-round on the show, he came off as kind of a jerk. He was asked to be a part of Top Chef All-Stars and to the surprise of some, he very nearly won it, finishing a close second to champion Richard Blais. (Even his detractors had come to admire his kitchen skills.)

Isabella has a cookbook out, Mike Isabella's Crazy Good Italian, which celebrates his Italian heritage and has lots of wonderful memories of his grandmother, who gave Mike his love of cooking. What I like about this book is that many of the recipes are for small plates, which I enjoy. Some of the small plate recipes I want to try include:
Deviled Eggs with Bacon
Baked Ricotta with Scallion, Speck and Saba (which sounds fancy, but looks fairly easy. Speck is a cured ham and saba is a thick concentrated syrup made from sweetened grape juice. I did not know that.)
Crispy Mushrooms with Sweet and Sour Apricot Sauce
Isabella is Italian and Greek, and there are many recipes he has created that combine those two heritages, which he has in a chapter titled Family Secrets. Some of those recipes are:
Aunt Connie's Pepper Rings
Grandma Antoinette's & Mike's Favorite Gravy, which has a pig's foot as its special ingredient
Meatballs, made with mortadella and mint
There are lots of authentic Italian recipes here for serious cooks, ones that use ingredients such as octopus, calamari and squid. When I visited Rome this past February, there were many dishes with those ingredients and reading Isabella's book brought me right back there.
Read more ›
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By logistician on October 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Love this coookbook! Have been to Graffiato and this book captures the spirit of Mike's cooking. My mother and I are cooking through the book dorisandsally.blogspot.com and my favorite recipes so far have been the lobster risotto and the pork belly. The receipes are easy and don't involve a lot of ingradients. I would highly recommend it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ilene on October 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having had the pleasure of dining at Grafiattos in Washington, DC, this book was joy to read. It included several recipes that we had tried at the restaurant. The layout of the book was great and the pictures were excellent.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Marisa Anne Brown on October 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What I love about this book is how approachable each recipe seems. And I love the personal connections to the recipes in the book. I have tried several of the recipes already and they came out FABULOUSLY! Kind of dangerous in my house. The pepperoni sauce on the wings sounds like the perfect football game treat this season and I'm about to make the Nutella cookies for a crowd as well.

LOVE LOVE LOVE it and I'm not afraid to try more!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Beverly Debenedictis on February 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Being Italian, I like the selected dishes and the family background input. I have not made any of the recipes yet, but they seem to be easy to follow. The lasagna will be first.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Karen Wear on June 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This cookbook is so interesting. I saw Mike Isabella on one of my cooking shows and just had to order the cookbook. I loved it so much that I got a copy for my sister.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Lucianovic on November 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I was deep in the throes of first trimester pregnancy nausea when my advance copy of Crazy Good Italian came. While I couldn't stomach the idea of cooking anything at that point, I still had to flip through the recipes to start planning for the things I would cook when eating was pleasurable again. Once I hit on the Roasted Cauliflower with Pecorino and Mint recipe -- which friends had already talked about making and loving -- my appetite started creeping back. I started with that (making it again tonight) and then made the Spicy Popcorn to fuel our presidential debate-watching nosh nerves.

There are so many more tempting recipes to delve into, but what I really adore about this book is that there's an entire chapter dedicated to squid, cuttlefish, and octopus (Tentacles: My Greek Side)! I know Isabella is part Greek but it's still rare (and rather deliciously daring) to have a full chapter on these little beasties in a cookbook that is not specifically seafood oriented. Bravo, Isabella and Blymire -- this is a workhorse cookbook and thank you for giving me my appetite back.
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Mike Isabella's Crazy Good Italian: Big Flavors, Small Plates
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