Top critical review
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Fine Publisher; Ethnographic Orientation
on June 7, 2014
At 928 pages, including a very decent index (organized by Region and by major ingredient, separately), this is a veritable 'tome.' It is sponsored by 'The Italian Academy of Cuisine' and it is published by Rizzoli, a fine Italian publisher. This does not rate as one of their high-end efforts however, since their work is usually 'coffee-table' lovely and dripping with photographs whereas this has the same type of cover and binding as an Italian dictionary intended for years of repeated reference.
The recipes are culled from extensive research and interview efforts at the level of local sources. For most readers, the recipes preserve traditions and, even, curiosities of regional Italian cuisine. This is not the place to look for the 'best' modern interpretation of much-loved Italian food. I am not Italian but I do cook and I have spent a good many weeks in restaurants in Italy. I can report that one of my favourite restaurants in Venice offers 'Steak in the Florentine Manner' by finishing with fresh lemon juice and olive oil and freshly cracked peppercorns--a practice this book says is not authentic. You will note that Venice is not Florence: I've had the dish there as well but it was not finished where I could see how it was done.
The Table of Contents is organized into: Antipasti, Pizza and Sauces; Soups; Pasta, Polenta and Rice; Fish; Meat and Poultry; Vegetables; Cheese Dishes and Desserts. A conversion chart is provided for measures. I wanted to treasure this book...but I admit that most readers will be much better pleased with the work of Marcella Hazan or many another contemporary Italian cookbook author. I would grab Mario Battali's books way before I purchased this one (and I did.)
This is a book for travellers who intend to get off the beaten tourist path in Italy and who want to spot some authentic dishes (and their names in Italian and in English) ahead of such a visit. This is a book that might serve Americans of Italian descent whose grandmothers reminisced about local and countryside cuisine. It is also a book whose recipes are selected from 'lesser' cuts than we enjoy in America today: this is 'nose to tail' cooking, in many places and it is rustic cooking in other places.
I'm putting my copy on the shelf and coming back to it after a while. There are some things I have highlighted that I want to make but for most of its pages...I am not so sure.