- Hardcover: 196 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (November 4, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312316364
- ISBN-13: 978-0312316365
- Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 22.6 x 9.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #357,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Rao's Recipes from the Neighborhood: Frank Pellegrino Cooks Italian with Family and Friends Hardcover – October 21, 2004
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100 Books for a Lifetime of Eating & Drinking
If you want to make an authentic tagine, bake mouth-watering cakes, or vicariously experience the life of a chef, you’ll find the book for it on this list.
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The titular neighborhood of Frank Pellegrino's Rao's: Recipes from the Neighborhood is Manhattan's East Harlem, home to an Italian immigrant population. The area also boasts Rao's, Pellegrino's Southern Italian restaurant that was discovered by local "worthies" and is now New York City's toughest reservation. The book, a follow-up to the bestselling Rao's Cookbook, offers 125 recipes for the kind of fare offered Rao's, and by Pellegrino's extended family and neighbors--dishes like Pizza Rustica, Penne Rigate with Cauliflower, Veal Milanese, and My Mother's Stuffed Calamari. This deeply satisfying, utterly unpretentious cooking is easy to do, but must be handled with care to avoid debasing an already hybrid cuisine. The book scores in this, offering exemplary versions of Old-to-New World dishes, and is neighborhood-authentic down to the use of American convenience products like garlic powder. Readers will also relish the wide recipe range, which includes sweets such as Simple Ricotta Cheesecake and Noni's Chocolate Ravioli, as well as Pellegrino's headnotes, which reveal who made what when. (Of the contributor of Wedding Soup, for example, he says, "his grandmother and my grandmother ... both came to America in 1911 in the same ship.") This flavorsome background, plus homey photos and other memorabilia like Our Kitchen Table make this modest book particularly welcome. --Arthur Boehm
From the Inside Flap
Rao's Recipes from the Neighborhood is a tribute to generations of cooks and the delicious Italian home-style meals that are America's favorite foods to make in their own kitchens-they're also the kind of dishes served at Frank Pellegrino's inimitable New York restaurant, Rao's, and have helped make Rao's famous.
Richly illustrated with full color photography as well as vintage photographs and studded with essays on the great Italian heritage of home cooking, this book is an inexhaustible source of ideas for any enthusiastic home chef. With a full range of dishes from antipasti to desserts, this book includes the kind of recipes you beg relatives to write down, such as: Rose Caiazzo's lasagna, stove-top chicken cacciatore, Frankie's meatballs, Susan di Sesa's oven-roasted peppers, Rao's lemon chicken adapted for the grill, and Maria Pugia's biscotti.
You will turn to this cookbook again and again-to get ideas for a quick midweek pasta dinner with the family, for chicken dishes to feed a crowd, for holiday baking recipes that are simple to make and satisfying to share. Over a hundred years of traditional Italian-American cooking is behind Rao's Recipes from the Neighborhood and will make it a beloved favorite in your kitchen.
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Top Customer Reviews
Before you get the notion that this is a cranky review of negatives and hit the `Not Influenced' button, let me say that this book really succeeds in giving us something interesting and useful, if not entirely new. It is certainly good enough to give it four stars, and the only thing keeping it from five is its relatively high price.
On the face of it, this appears to be a brand name rip-off, cashing in on the success of the restaurant, the original cookbook of restaurant recipes, and the Rao line of supermarket products. However, this book is not similar to other culinary publishing rip-offs such as the Alton Brown blank book and the Mark Bittman subdivision of his book into three booklets.
I will say that St. Martin's Press has used the lucre they expect to get for this price to good effect. The design of the book is crisp, the photography is good, all photographs are CAPTIONED and appear at an appropriate place in the text, and not much of the precious 196 pages are taken up with poorly written family stories.
The first thing to notice is that these are NOT recipes from the restaurant, Rao. They are recipes from Frank Pellegrino's friends and family labeled in a 72-point font with the name of the famous restaurant and forwarded by family friend and restaurant reviewer Mimi Sheraton, who put Rao's on the map with a three star rating in a New York Times restaurant review. So, this book is borrowing luster from the restaurant rather than serving as a promotion for same restaurant. The restaurant doesn't need the business, as I suspect not even Donald Trump or Bill Clinton could get a reservation at one of their eight (8) tables.
And, the recipes are really very good and most are exceptionally simple, but many are sophisticated when they have to be. This simplicity is all to a good cause, since the heart of the Italian genius with food is to create a pantry of exceptional ingredients, then don't mess them up. (Pellegrino does an homage to this principle in his introductory section on pantry items.) Sometimes, you can only appreciate this quality when you look at non-Italian interpreters such as London's River Café and Jamie Oliver. The simplicity really shines in recipes such as the Puttanesca sauce where the constant problem of not burning the garlic is solved simply with nary a need for a cautionary note by simply not adding the garlic until after the anchovies and olives have been added. As no ingredient is left out, I am hard pressed to believe this will taste any worse than the very fussy (but very good) version from `Cooks Illustrated' magazine.
When a cookbook is good, that quality usually shows itself on the first or second recipe and this book proves this rule. Even though this is a book of `Italian-American' recipes, the very first recipe is a perfect implementation of a classic unfussy Italian `Brodo di Pollo' which is made with coarsely chunked vegetables, is simmered for a scant hour and 15 minutes, and retains the poached chicken meat for some other purpose. The recipe even includes an optional enhancement I do not recall seeing elsewhere, with a thickening of the stock by adding a puree of the cooked carrots, leeks, and celery.
Another application of pure Italian culinary tradition is in the recipe for the wedding soup, where each green is carefully blanched separately, blanching water is saved as a later ingredient, cannellini beans are carefully pureed, and savories are gently sautéed, all before making the final assembly. Marcella Hazan could not have done it better. Aside from the opening chapter on soups, there are chapters on Salads; Egg Dishes; Pizza, Calzone, and Bread; Pasta, Rice, Polenta, and Sauces; Seafood; Chicken; Meats; Vegetables; and Desserts. While the bread chapter does not match the depth of understanding provided by a specialist's book by, for example, Peter Reinhart or Carol Field, it is really pretty good.
The biggest question one faces when considering getting this book is `Do I really need another Italian or Italian-American cookbook?' There is simply very little here which is new. I would definitely recommend this book in preference to Rocco DiSpirito's book he did with his mom. A perfect example is their Puttanesca recipes which Pellegrino does in 15 minutes with basic ingredients and which Rocco does in 20 minutes, needing a prepared sauce that takes additional time to make.
And, I would consider this book the equal to John Mariani's book as a source for `Italian-American' recipes (but without Mariani's excellent historical perspective and wine notes). It is also as good as `Eleanora's Kitchen' by Eleanora Scarpetta, and maybe just a touch better, as it is a choral work rather than just a solo effort. As a definitive presentation of `Italian-American' cuisine, it is not quite as good as Lydia Bastianich's excellent PBS series tie-in book. When I compare the Italian-American classic sausage and peppers from all books, I find Bastianich' version to be by far the most tasty (although I have a sneaky suspicion that her recipe has more to do with her northern Italian origin than it has to do with Mulberry street in Manhattan).
If you have no `Italian-American' cookbooks, this volume is an excellent purchase, especially if you can get a good discount.
Now, co-owner and actor Frank Pellegrino has put his restaurants' most popular dishes in book form, so that people crazy about traditional Italian fare can take a stab at making it themselves.
Boasting friends like actor Danny Aiello (who wrote the book's preface) and former New York Times food critic Mimi Sheraton (who wrote the forward), Pellegrino's book is part cookbook, part family album, as he takes a look at his childhood, his family, and the part that Rao's, owned then by his aunt and uncle Anna and Vincent Rao, played as he grew up around the neighborhood in it's East Harlem location.
The book is divided into chapters, each covering a specific type of food, and each is filled with family photographs, reminiscences from other members of his family and Frank's wide array of friends, as well as the recipes that made Rao's famous, sure to set the mouth watering. Some of the dishes Rao's is renowned for, such as Fettuccine Alfredo, boiled stuffed lobster, and the restaurants well-known homemade Marinara Sauce, are often less complicated than one tasting the dishes at the restaurant would probably believe. Each of those recipes, as well as all of the others, are explained in enough detail that it should be fairly simple to make near-Rao quality Italian fare in the average kitchen.
Although a bit pricey for its smallish size (a mere 197 pages), the book is nonetheless well worth it's price. The simple step-by-step instructions make this a great book for the beginning Italian cook, or for that matter, an experienced one as well.
If you're looking to take a stab at authentic Italian cuisine, New York Style, then look no further. Pellegrino offers up a cookbook filled with food, family, and style just too hard to resist.
All the recipes I've tried have come out perfectly. I just finished a plate of eggplant parm that was better than I've ever had in a restaurant. My husband craves the mussels marinara and asks for it all the time.
The recipes for sauces are quick, easy and fresh tasting.
My only complaint, albeit a big one is with the quality of the book itself
I have many many cookbooks but have never had one that has fallen apart as this one has ( pages are failing out) I'm not hard on my books and have many of them for over 30 years. I want to purchase another one because this book is a keeper but am hesitant to do so , as the price is not inexpensive and am afraid it will fall apart as well. Curious to know if anyone else has had this problem
If the book binding was top quality I would have given a 5 star review