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Mike Isabella's Crazy Good Italian: Big Flavors, Small Plates Hardcover – September 25, 2012
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New Jersey Monthly, October 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
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.
Top Customer Reviews
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. Some of those recipes from the chapter Not Your Sunday Macaroni are:
Baby Cuttlefish with Salt Crusted Potatoes & Pancetta Pesto
Black Spaghetti with Clams, Pancetta, Red Chili & Squid Ink
Pistachio Fettucine with Lamb Ragu, Feta & Mint
The dish that came Isabella created for the Top Chef All-Star final challenge, his Pepperoni Sauce, is in this book. Gail Simmons from Food & amp;Wine Magazine went crazy for this dish, and here Isabella uses it over chicken wings. It's one of the most requested dishes at his Washington DC Graffiato restaurant, and I'm going to make this one for Sunday football for my guys. This is a link to the recipe and a video of Isabella making the dish on the Today Show this past week.
There are gorgeous photos in this book, and at the end of the book there is a section called Menu Suggestions, where Isabella categorizes his recipes under Date Night, Entertaining, Family Night and Dinner Party Time. I liked that added touch.
This is a cookbook for the more adventurous and serious cooks in my opinion. If you have someone on your Christmas gift list who fits that description, Mike Isabella's Crazy Good Italian would be a wonderful holiday present.
LOVE LOVE LOVE it and I'm not afraid to try more!
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.