Top critical review
241 people found this helpful
great chef, awful book
on December 24, 2004
My wife and I are huge fans of Mario Batali. We used to live in NY and ate regularly at his restaurants: mostly Lupa, Babbo for special occasions, and Esca when we were stuck in the theatre district. I love many of the dishes featured in this book (for example the "2 Minute Calamari, Sicilian Lifeguard Style," or his Bolognese sauce).
We're also both experienced cooks and avid cookbook readers, and neither of us like this cookbook. It's a beautifully produced book, and does contain a large number of recipes corresponding to famous dishes from Babbbo. Unfortunately, many of the recipes in this book have serious errors and don't work. Some recipes omit steps, others include incorrect descriptions of proportions, and others are vague about cooking techniques. For example, the recipe for the 2 minute calamari lists "1 cup couscous" as an ingredient, without telling you if it's supposed to be raw or cooked. (By trial and error, I figured out that it was cooked.) Or, there was the Bigeye Tuna recipe that asked you to prepare a half dozen ingredients, and doesn't tell you what to do with them. (For example, it tells you to sautee mushrooms, then doesn't tell you what to do with them. It also tells you to make parsley oil, then doesn't tell you what to do with it. We guessed that we should use it as a garnish.) Or take the Bolognese recipe, which produces a watery, smoky mess that tastes nothing like the sauce served in the restaurant.
Much as we wanted to like this book, we didn't like it, and can't recommend it. If you want to learn how to cook Italian food, try some of Marcella Hazan's books. If you want to eat Mario Batali's food, go to his restaurants. If you want to learn how to make the dishes served in his restaurants, wait for a better book.
(Despite our experience with this book, we bought Mario's new book "Molto Italiano : 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home." I'm happy to say that this book is much, much better. This book shares a lot of recipes with the Babbo book, but so far it appears that all the directions are complete, and the recipes work correctly.)