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The Concise Gastronomy of Italy    by Anna del Conte order for
Concise Gastronomy of Italy
by Anna del Conte
Order:  USA  Can
Pavilion, 2005 (2001)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Anna del Conte tells us that The Concise Gastronomy of Italy is 'the culmination of my long love affair with the food of Italy and the culture that lies behind it.' She begins with a historical perspective on Italian cuisine (including the origins of spaghetti and a mention of many early cookbooks), discusses the country's 'culture of food', and presents specialties (and wines) of the different regions. There are no photographs in the book.

The 200 recipes - including many of the author's 'particular favorites' - are divided into: Antipasti; Soups; Pasta; Rice, Polenta and Gnocchi; Fish and Seafood, Poultry and Game; Meat Dishes; Vegetable Dishes; Desserts, Cakes and Biscuits; Sauces; and Breads and Pizzas. The second half of the book includes a comprehensive 'A-Z of Ingredients' (including vegetables and cheeses), a listing of 'Terms & Techniques', an overview of 'Italy Land of Vines', and a helpful 'Wine Index'.

The first Antipasti recipe, for Hot Garlic and Anchovy Dip, made me salivate. Soups such as Tuscan Bean Soup, seem hearty, a meal in themselves. I like the look of Pasta 'Ncasciata (a Sicilian pasta pie with eggs and eggplants), and plan to try Risotto with Sea Bass as well as Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi. Many of the sauces (at the end of the recipe section) appeal, including Piedmontese Fondue and Dried Porcini Sauce. My family often experiment with pizzas, and we'll enjoy trying the combinations here, especially Pizza Rustica.

From a wide selection of seafood recipes, I like the look of a simple Sole with Basil and Pine Nuts. We eat a lot of chicken so I plan to try several recipes here, especially one with a mushroom sauce. The beef stews look straightforward and tasty. There are also wild boar and venison concoctions (if you can get the meat), and appetizing lamb and pork recipes - I intend to cook Roast Leg of Lamb with Tiny Onions for the family. Vegetable dishes include Leek and Eggs with Butter and Parmesan and Grilled Red Radicchio, as well as recipes for aubergines and peppers.

Finally, desserts! I love Zabaglione, which is here along with instructions to make biscuits, cakes, puddings, nougat, sorbet, granita, and ice cream. If you enjoy Italian food, then The Concise Gastronomy of Italy belongs on your cookbook shelf, for its regional and historical information, and its extensive ingredients glossary, as much as for its tasty recipes.

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