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Celebrations Italian Style

by Mary Ann Esposito
Illustrated by Tomie de Paola

342 pages, $26, Hearst Books, New York
ISBN 0-688-13038-0
Reviewed by Bill Kimball

From the pages of Epicurean

This is not a new book, having been published in 1995, but it is one I have cherished since I first happened upon it, so when our Editor-in-Chief asked me to review a cookbook I decided to take the opportunity to introduce our readers to a book that is still available and worth seeking out.

This is not a book for everyday food, but for special occasions. Consequently some are more elaborate than others; but all of the recipes are easy to follow. There is but one shortcoming: The photographs are all bunched up at the beginning, so they might provide generic inspiration but they lack specific reference. There are also sepia toned illustrations by Tomie de Paola, author of such children's books as Strega Nonna. But my favorite parts of the book are the author's recollections and comments about the recipes at hand, as well as some folktales and history, such as "Who is Saint Nicholas?"

The over 200 recipes in Celebrations Italian Style constitute a virtual encyclopedia of special occasion Italian cuisine, from Antipasti to soup, pasta and rice to pizza, bread to fish, meat, poultry, and salads, vegetables, fruit desserts and biscotti (the latter are actually fairly simple to make, and will wow your friends and family).

It's a pleasure to find a book that covers the broad range of Italian cooking. Italy has numerous regional cuisines which are included here, from Sicilian Bread to a pasta salad from Puglia, from a Neapolitan double crust pizza to the Tuscan Papparadelle con Vitello.

Happily, fresh ingredients and once exotic vegetables and cheeses are now available at most supermarkets in the U.S. For some of the harder to obtain Italian ingredients, an appendix also yields some mail order sources. There is also a section on how to make your own authentic ingredients including such items as flavored vinegars, flavored oils, dried tomatoes and zucchini, and orange liqueur.

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