Admitting that no one book can adequately cover Italian food, Riley, a British author and food historian, promises to “convey the delights and excitement of the pursuit.” She certainly does this in a scholarly yet entertaining volume. The more than 900 entries, arranged in dictionary format, read like essays. There are no recipes as such, but many dishes describe the ingredients and methods of cooking. All aspects of food are mentioned—ingredients, implements and methods of cooking, chefs, regions of the country, etc. Convenience foods, Cookbooks, and Coriander are all described in entries of 2 pages. Chickpeas and Parmesan each merit 3 pages. Pig has 5 pages, followed by separate entries for the fat, head, offal, and other pig parts. Various aspects of pasta are discussed in 11 entries over 13 pages. Riley quotes excerpts from literature (some only in Italian) to illustrate the use of a food. One of her favorite writers is Andrea Camilleri. In the entry for Sand smelt, there is a half-page description of Montalbano (Camilleri’s fictional detective) eating fritters made with the tiny fish. A few small but artful black-and-white photographs accompany the text. A detailed bibliography and a comprehensive index add to the usefulness of this volume as a research tool. Recommended for all culinary reference collections, but those who love Italy or Italian food will enjoy reading it for pleasure. --Christine Bulson
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"Italian Food shouldn't remain on the shelf; instead, it should be savored."--Chicago Tribune
Top Ten Reads
"Italian food buffs on your list may welcome a mini-encyclopedia that turns out to be almost an anti-encyclopedia: Gillian Riley's determinedly personal, quirky, wide-ranging The Oxford Companion to Italian Food
".--Anne Mendelson, The New York Times
"Food historian and gastronome Gillian Riley's witty, expansive compendium deftly deconstructs everything from antipasto ("benign titillation of the palate with only a few delicacies") to zeppole ("overkill can be achieved with a filling of custard")."--Bon Appetit
"A magisterial (recipe-less) book that anyone even mildly interested in the subject must own....encourages you to read entry after entry for the pleasure of learning marvelous oddments about the obscure and the familiar."--The Atlantic
"[Riley is] a good, spunky writer who really knows what she's talking about...a master of the pithy observation."--Russ Parsons, The LA Times Blog
"Erudite, witty, and stuffed with gems"--The Telegraph
"She writes in [a] characteristically colloquial but never too casual tone, a lovely, rare style...laden...with humor, sly political commentary, and a general sense of the author's total immersion in and great passion for Italian cuisine and its connection to all other aspects of Italy."--Bookforum
"A scholarly yet entertaining volume. Recommended for all culinary reference collections, but those who love Italy or Italian food will enjoy reading it for pleasure."--Booklist
"A grand buffet of curious delights. Riley writes to entertain as well as to inform, and never holds back when there is a choice anecdote to relate....essential browsing for the serious Italo-foodlie."--John Dickie, The Guardian
"Authoritative, erudite, and unexpectedly entertaining."--The Independent
"For anyone who takes these styles of cooking seriously, these books are essential....First is Gillian Riley's The Oxford Companion to Italian Food
, a fascinating encyclopedia of the Italian food world. Though it contains no recipes, it is a wonderful resource for understanding Italian recipes and how to cook them."--Associated Press
"WORTH READING: [This] new book will do more than spruce up your coffee table...The Oxford Companion to Italian Food
reads like a literary dictionary, with entries covering all aspects of Italian cuisine paired with striking illustrations."--La Cucina Italiana
"Gillian Riley has assembled between the covers of this volume more useful information about the foods of Italy than is available in any other form, or in any other language, Italian included.
Anyone with more than a passing interest in this seminal cuisine should be grateful to her, as I am."--Marcella Hazan
"Erudite, engaging, and captivating: an indispensable guide for Italophiles, food lovers, and the greedily curious."--Nigella Lawson
"A great tribute to a rich and complex culinary culture: the Italian. It contains all the essential information and more, from the earth to the table, within a historical, artisanal and cultural context. This is a must-have reference book for any serious lover of Italian food.
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