Although this is indeed a cookbook, it is really much more than that. The authors have shared their love of Italian food, both through recipes used in their many Los Angeles restaurants, as well as the many stories and culinary tidbits interspersed throughout the book. This book expresses the belief that dining Italian style is much more than extraordinary food, but is in fact more about the combination of grace, generosity, and simplicity with which the food is offered. It shares the importance of taking time to savor meals with family and friends, enjoying simply prepared foods made with the freshest seasonal ingredients. It is their belief, that you can live an Italian culinary life anywhere, by following these simple principles.
The book begins with a brief overview on the absolute essentials for an Italian kitchen, including olive oil, parmesan cheese and wine. The following chapters are broken up into the usual chapters found in an Italian cookbook, with everything from Antipasti to Desserts. The Antipasti chapter contains an extensive selection of recipes including recipes for olives, bruschetta, focaccia, vegetable tapenades, and many more. There is also a very nice selection of assorted salads to be used as an appetizer or a light lunch. I particularly enjoyed the Fresh Mushroom, Arugula, and Parmesan Cheese salad, which is a wonderful start to any meal.
The First Course, or Primi chapter is divided into Dried Pasta, Fresh Pasta, Risotto, Soups, Gnocchi and Polenta. Almost all of these recipes are easy to prepare with easy to find ingredients. Also included are recipes for basic broths, simple sauces, and instructions for making fresh pasta.
The Main Course or Secondi chapter is complete with seafood and many assorted meat selections. The Venetian-Style Mussels and Potatoes was delicious, and very easy to prepare. I have also made the recipe for Pan-Roasted Chicken with Sweet Peppers, Olives And Capers a number of times, and it is quickly becoming a family favorite in my house. Compared to earlier chapters, I found the Contorni, or Vegetable Side Dish chapter to be a bit too brief, but the recipes shared here do cover all the basics.
The book concludes with the chapter on Dolci or Desserts, sharing a few tasty recipes, mostly fruit based, as well as a few recipes for traditional cookies. An explanation is given on the Italian outlook about desserts, compared to other cultures. Whereas many in America look at luscious desserts as the highlight of their meal, Italians usually consider fresh seasonal fruit to be the perfect complement to end a fine meal. Although I did enjoy reading this book, as well as trying many of the recipes, I would have preferred this book if it had contained some photographs of some of the tasty recipes. Apart from that, this book is a good choice for anyone who wants to understand what Italian cuisine is all about. One learns from this book that eating Italian style is as much about lifestyle as it is the basic food.