Take care above all things that the markets of Rome be well supplied: nothing more gay or peaceful than the people when they are well fed.
–Aurelian, c 330 BCE
Sometimes (most of the time) it’s the simple things that are the most difficult.
It’s the same with Italian food. Choose the wrong combination of pasta and sauce and it won’t taste right. Skip the final drizzle of balsamic on the grilled chicory and there’s no point to the dish. And a stodgy, dead mozzarella, don’t even bother.
That’s what this book offers, the impetus to use the very best ingredients (preferably those that are meticulously created and selectively imported at Eataly) and the tricks that grandmothers know to get the best flavor out of them.
In fact, the book reflects founder Oscar Farinetti’s vision for the store, “a place to learn about food and, through food, about life.” As in the store, the focus is on regional ingredients, artisanal producers, and traditional recipes. Tips and techniques are combined with a friendly bit of encyclopedia: how the taste and judge olive oil, signs of quality in fresh and dried pasta, how to make and eat a Brodetto, the Adriatic Fish soup virtually guaranteed to splash on your white shirt.
Together with photos and recipes, the book indeed provides insight into the Italian way with food from production to preparation to enjoyment. And the Italian love of embellishment. Why grow one kind of green when you can enjoy chicory, escarole, puntarelle, and all their leafy siblings? Every region has its loaf, from refined grissini bread sticks in the Piedmont to the dense rye flour Pane di Bolzano in the Alto-Adige. Every region, every village has its way, from louche Sicilian desserts to stern Tuscan beans.
I decided to experiment with recipes that were not from my family’s hometown and so made Quaglie in Salsa de Pane, with cornish game hens and a sweet-savory sauce of grapes and red wine. My Ligurian grandmother would never make the creamy Bonet dessert terrine, but she would totally get Pinzimonio–a salad of mandoline-thin seasonal vegetables that is like sunshine on a plate. As for the pizza and flatbread recipes, this is where I live–damn the gluten and fire up the oven.
This is the book when you’re ready to venture out of your “home town” and learn the Italian way with caffe, digestivo, pane, verdure, salumi, and all such deliciousness.