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on 2 June 1999
I have extremely mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, during a recent trip to Tuscany I found it invaluable. The recommendations are spot on, the descriptions are accurate, and the advice is excellent. If Willinger describes a restaurant as a good, traditional trattoria, that's what it is; if it's a bakery with a particular specialty, that specialty is worth a taste. She steered us to one of the best restaurant meals I've ever eaten (at Viccolo del Contento, in Castelfranco di Sopra). We never would have known about it without her. (There was one recommendation we disagreed with: Cibreo, in Florence. But practically every guidebook recommends it highly, so either we had an atypical experience there or it's gone downhill.)
On the other hand, the book is so badly organized that trying to use it is extraordinarily frustrating. The section on Florence, for example, is a hodgepodge -- restaurants, bakeries, shops, etc. *seem* to be arranged by category (except when they aren't), and alphabetically within each category (except when they aren't). Since there's no map of the city, and only vague mentions of where things are, to find places you have to match the address to a map from some other source. (I finally got out my guidebook map and went through the entire Florence section, marking the entries of places that were near where we were staying.)
The book also contains frustrating lapses. There are generally no directions or only minimal information on where things are. The "Pitti Gola e Cantina" in Florence is wrongly named (as "Pitti Libri e Gola") and is listed simply as being in the Piazza Pitti -- no street address. We would have had a hard time finding it if we hadn't had another guidebook that gave the correct name and address. And in small towns, you generally have to ask for directions from the locals, otherwise you'll never find where you're going. (That's what we had to do for Viccolo del Contento.)
Note the subtitle: this book only covers Northern Italy.
My advice: if you're going to Northern Italy, buy this book, but make sure that you look through it carefully before you go so that you know more or less what to look for when you get there. Otherwise, you'll be constantly frustrated.
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on 26 July 1999
When I arrived in Florence in June 1998, I did not even know the name Faith Heller Willinger.I came across the book Eating in Italy by chance while visiting a bookstore. It looked promising enough and I bought it. For the rest of my month in Northern Italy, this book became an essential guide. How else would I have known which gelato is the best in Venice? Which restaruant is really a must when you visit Sirmione in the lake district ? My secret for discovering Italy's best food was in following this book, both its "do's" and its "don'ts". When I failed to follow a "don't", I came to regret it. Having the book with us in the car was essential in making this visit a gastronomic experience. My only regret was that in the concluding part of the trip, in Rome, I didn't have Faith Willinger with me (the book only covers Northern Italy). By now I also own Willinger's cookbook (Red, White and Greens), and folllow her food columns on the Internet. She is for sure a great resource for enjoying the fabolus food of Italy.
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on 11 November 1998
This is a really fun book! It provides more indepth information than the usual guide book. Not only tells you about the local food and wine selection, but also information about the local crafts, events, and specialty items. Recommends local stores for cookware, best markets, linen & houseware shops. Provides Menu specialty selections for each province, tells hours/days of operation for local markets. Provides words and phrases to use when ordering in markets and restaurants. Gives some hotel information and realistic cost ratings on restaurants, cafes, trattorias, etc. Excellent book!
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on 27 April 1999
I recommend this book. It is the best guide to restaurants in Italy and contains many absolute gems that otherwise one could find only with the help of discriminating local friends. But it is not a failsafe guide, one does have to read a bit between the lines to avoid loosers that, regretfully, got included. For instance, in Milano, neither Peck nor Don Lisander belong on any recommended list. They are high class tourist traps with undistinguished food and mediocre service at outrageous prices. You could guess that reading Willinger's comments but you need a very fine antenna.
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on 27 March 1998
If you have shelled out good money for "Gastronomic Guides" or "Restaurant Guides" to Italy, and have been disappointed, one-click this one.A reliable,entertaining and stimulating book about the pleasures of food in Italy. You know you are in good hands when the author says it's "worth a detour" to go to an outdoor stand in Greve for a porchetta sandwich. Willinger never misleads you, and never patronizes you. Buy it!
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