Don't do what I did, which was to open this book for the first time, immediately stumble onto the recipe for Gatto, make it ten times in the next two weeks, thus overdosing on it for life. The Gatto recipe should come with a warning to not make it more than once a week. I did go back to it recently, making it for a vegetarian lady friend using smoked mackeral instead of salami, and the results were everything that a bachelor could hope for.
I must have ten Italian cookbooks, including Diane Seed's excellent "Top 100 Pasta Sauces," but this one is my favourite. I much prefer cookbooks with photographs of each recipe, but the illustrations by Helen Semmler here are just beautiful.
And the recipes: There are more unique and authentic recipes here than in my other nine Italian cookbooks combined. A couple of the dishes introduce an entirely new way to think about an entree. Scrigno di zucchini e gamberi (jewel boxes of prawns and courgette) introduced me to the concept of the three-dimensional weightless entree. As Ms. Seed points out, that particular recipe can be made ahead of time, and when the guests arrive, requires only ten minutes in the oven before you can serve your guests a spectacular amuse-bouche, appetizer, or main course. I have made at least ten variations on that recipe (try it with diced swordfish instead of the shrimp), and my family is now completely conditioned to enthusiastically receive experimental three-dimensional entrees.
There are a few recipes in here that are a little TOO authentic: I cannot see myself ever making Colli di pollo ripeni (Chicken neck stuffed with beef) or Polpi affogati (drowned octopus), but the other 95% of the recipes are refreshing challenges. I don't often make standard ravioli, because it is just too time-consuming and I find it difficult to ensure that they all seal: In here is a foolproof, quick and simple recipe for Raviolo aperto (Open Ravioli) that will satisfy my ravioli-cravings for the rest of my life. To quote Ms. Seed: "Gualtiero Marchesi was one of the first restaurant owners to introduce a 'new look' in Italian cooking. His open ravioli has become one of the great modern classics." Richly-deserved praise.
I'm still working my way through this book, like I still wonder what Cupola di crepes Gerard (cupola of pancakes) will be like, given that it consists of thin pancakes filled with mushrooms, ham, gruyere and parmesan cheeses, all doused with a simple bechamel sauce. If the other 30-odd recipes from this book that I've made are a guide, it will be spectacular, and the recipe will be reliable enough to make for the first time with guests arriving shortly.
Ms. Seed is completely reliable, and this book in particular is a relevation.