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Italy al Dente: Pasta, Risotto, Gnocchi, Polenta, Soup    by Biba Caggiano order for
Italy al Dente
by Biba Caggiano
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 1998 (1998)

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

''At the table one never grows old!' That is probably why Italians spend such a great deal of time around the dinner table. Another reason is perhaps quite obvious to everyone: Italians love food. They don't intellectualize about food. They celebrate it!' So begins the introduction of Italy al Dente. Before you say, 'Yeah. Yeah. Another Italian cookbook,' take a look inside at glorious photos of food that will start you dreaming of soup and pasta and risotto and polenta - the accompanying recipes will bring this wonderful food to your very own table.

Biba Caggiano tells us that 'flexibility in the kitchen is essential, that quality of ingredients is everything, and that simplicity of execution is a must.' Caggiano believes that another prerequisite of the Italian cook is fantasia, imagination and creativity. Italian food 'nourishes and satisfies. It is food you want to share with family and friends. It makes you want to celebrate life.' Caggiano is a bestselling author of Italian cookbooks, the owner of Biba restaurant, and has been chosen California Best Chef of the Year. She knows her subject and it behooves readers to follow her advice, suggestions and scrumptious recipes, which start with enough luscious soups to satisfy anyone's craving; Tuscan Onion Soup would be my choice. To my mind, Pasta is the food of gods. And the recipes offered here confirm that opinion - Eggplant-Goat Cheese Tortelli with Fresh Tomatoes and Black Olives! Wow! Don't skip the Risotto and Rice Dishes. Oh, my. And the Gnocchi ...! My chef daughter makes a mean polenta, but these recipes bellisimo.

Italy al Dente abounds with nuggets of information about the dishes or their ingredients. It also abounds with good food that will encourage you to linger over the table to enjoy the Italian 'sense of tradition, exuberance and fantasia.'

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