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on 7 September 2001
As a cook and literary buff, I always thought of Harry's Bar in Venice as a monument that has provided me with great inspiration.
Tucked away on a corner not far from St Mark's Square, it is quite small with low ceilings but with an incredible view of the Grand Canal from its first floor. The decor is very relaxing with small comfortable chairs and tables in pleasant shades of apricot and cream. Upon opening the doors, you immediately drink in the atmosphere that is intimate, worldly, historically rich and alive.
I remember the first time I visited Harry's bar twenty-five years ago. I went to this legendary bar, made famous by Ernest Hemingway, after having promised myself that I would only have a drink. I knew the prices would be outrageous for someone on a student budget since Harry's Bar had enjoyed an international reputation since 1931. But the moment that last sip of wine was out of my glass, I had to ask for a table. I do not remember what I had for lunch that day at Harry's Bar. I do remember though, how impressed I was by the quality of the house wine, the simple presentation of the food that tasted wonderful and the professional and friendly service with which the Harry's Bar staff made sure that this was going to be a memorable experience for me. So, Harry's Bar became part of my growing up and thus gained a significant importance in my life.
Ernest Hemingway used to have his own table in one corner of Harry's Bar. At the end of World War II, Hemingway dedicated to the bar a page of his famous novel "Across the River and into the Trees." The list of famous people who frequented Harry's Bar is long and impressive. Arturo Toscanini, Guglielmo Marconi, Charlie Chaplin, Truman Capote, Orson Welles, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Princess Aspasia of Greece, Aristotle Onassis, Barbara Hutton, Peggy Guggenheim and Woody Allen, just to mention a few.
Harry's Bar opened in 1931 when Giuseppe Cipriani, an enterprising bartender at the Hotel Europa in Venice, was rewarded for his earlier generosity to a rich, young American from Boston named Harry Pickering. Pickering had been a customer at the Hotel Europa for some time, then suddenly stopped frequenting the hotel bar. One day, the elder Cipriani asked Pickering why he no longer patronized the bar. Pickering was broke, he explained to the bartender -- his family cut him off when it was discovered he had not curtailed his recklessness and fondness for drinking. So, Cipriani loaned his patron $5,000 U.S. so that Mr. Pickering could pay his hotel and bar bill as well as his cost of transportation home and ... have one last martini. Two years later, Pickering walked back into the Hotel Europa, ordered a drink at the bar, thanked Cipriani for the loan and handed him enough money to repay the loan and enable Cipriani to open his own bar.
In 1991, Giuseppe's son, Arrigo Cipriani, assembled a book of recipes: "The Harry's Bar Cookbook" (Bantam Books). The book contains more than 200 original recipes, more than 125 lavish full color photographs, wonderful anecdotes and insight into the nuances of classic Italian cuisine and their philosophy of entertaining.
During the 1930s and 1940s, founder Giuseppe Cipriani created many of the dishes still served today. Giuseppe invented the Bellini and the Montgomery cocktails. The Bellini, contains white peach pulp, juice and Prosecco (an Italian sparkling wine). Giuseppe is said to have invented it in 1948, and named the drink for the Renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini whose works were exhibited in Venice that year. The Montgomery, as Hemingway called it, is a very dry martini with a proportion of gin to vermouth of fifteen to one - the same proportion that the famed British General Bernard Montgomery was said to have endured when he lead his soldiers to fight against the enemy during World War II.
Other classics include: hot sandwiches; shrimp sandwiches (favorites of Orson Welles and Truman Capote); egg pasta with ham au gratin; risotto; and Carpaccio which is the most popular dish served at Harry's Bar. Consisting of paper-thin sheets of raw filet mignon, seasoned with a light white sauce, the Carpaccio, according to the bar's legend, was inspired by one of Cipriani's regular customers, the Countess Amalia Nani Mocenigo, whose doctor prohibited her from eating cooked meat. The dish was named after the celebrated Renaissance Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio, famous for his use of bright red-and-white colors.
The "Harry's Bar Cookbook" is a beautiful book to own and a great inspiration for the creation of meals tantalizing to the palate. The recipes are innovative, well written and they work! This cookbook is the second best thing to having lunch at Harry's Bar, but with the stories in the book and your dreamy imagination, it's almost like being there!
The beauty of the recipes lies in their simplicity, their adaptability to a range of dining styles from elegant to informal and their memorable flavor. I hope you enjoy this cookbook as much as we do in our home.
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on 5 December 2000
I wholeheartedly recommend this excellent book to anyone interested in leaning about and practising Italian cooking. Each subject starts with an out lay of basic facts about the relevant ingredients and contains good "encyclopaedic" information. The recipes are, with some dedication, cookable !! I have learnt how to make a good risotto with por cini, and this year am trying to master the risot to with "frutti di mare". The style of writing is enjoyable. I understand a new updated edition has come out in 2000.
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on 29 August 2000
The world is full of books that pretend to talk about the Italian way of cooking. Some of them are good, others have nothing to do with Italian food. For me this is by far the best book if you truly want to enjoy, and to understand, the way we eat. And, btw, all the recipes and timings are correct!
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on 7 January 2013
I'm a great fan of Harry's Bar, bought this book so that I could recreate some of my favourite recipes but really enjoyed reading the stories of the early days. The love of good food comes through the pages.
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on 24 April 2014
I have used this book for nearly two years and it's the one I keep returning to for delicious easy recipes. There are lots of photos to teach you how to make gnocchi, or information for choosing parmigiana or olive oil etc. If a recipe needs a explanation of technique, like risotto or preparing artichokes, it is clearly and consciously given. I have learnt much about cooking in the Italian tradition and Signor Cipriani teaches and entertains from the pages of this book. The Bolognese and Osso Buco are not too be missed!

Recently we were in Venice and ate an excellent meal in Harry's Bar. I had the privilege of having the book signed by Signor Cipriani. He was pleased with all the sticky notes, tomato stains and other signs of use. Just as in the book, he had his meal, read the newspaper and greeted everyone in the restaurant.

The book, the restaurant and Venice I can heartily recommend.
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on 19 July 2011
Excellent recipes but a very large book for the cookery shelf and heavy. There is a lot of reading matter, as opposed to recipes themselves, about Venice, Harry's Bar, Italy etc which is very entertaining. Unfortunately the section on meat recipes mostly covers veal which is not easy to obtain in the UK any more. However, I would recommend it to anyone interested in individual and tasty recipes which cover things like home-made pasta. bread, unusual sauces etc. not usually included in run-of-the-mill cookery books.
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on 23 September 2011
I have spent a lot of time at Cipriani's in Soho NY and was so excited to find this book since I don't live anywhere near a Cipriani restaurant anymore. The recipes are delicious and the stories in the book about the history of Harry's Bar are well written and enjoyable to read. I don't usually buy recipe books but this one is special so I highly recommend it. It would even make a great gift for anyone who loves to cook.
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on 15 February 2014
I really liked this s well written and I can dip into it and always find something I would like to cook. great for snacks. i.e. cauliflower soup and toasted cheese sandwiches. superb
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on 27 August 2013
Quality book which very happily reminds me of Venice and Harry's Bar. Worth a visit, the best food in Venice.
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on 7 December 2014
Really good and informative
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