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Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera


Introduction by Placido Domingo

Newcomers to opera receive a fine guide to learning about opera appreciation, written by a performance manager for the Metropolitan Opera. Eleven famous operas are reviewed in a step-by-step listener’s guide which covers the basics of learning about the opera’s form, style, and scene challenges.

Florence in Detail


and Claudio Gatti

Florence is one of Italy’s most extraordinary cities. Rich with the world’s most important art and architecture, and with shopping that rivals most larger cities, Florence is the second-most popular destination in Italy. The newest in Rizzoli’s Italian cities guidebook series created in collaboration with the International Herald Tribune, Florence in Detail provides the seasoned traveler information on well-known cultural and commercial points of interest, as well as off-the-beaten-path treasures to let one experience the city as natives do. Through 17 walking tours and in-depth Focus sections, Florence in Detail takes the traveler to familiar sites, but offers alternative itineraries as well as introducing the reader to lesser-known sites that are extraordinary. Within each itinerary, Rizzoli has singled out one site that is particularly important or noteworthy. Identified with a red sticker, the reader can easily find Rizzoli’s favorite site in every chapter. Six itineraries to small towns just outside Florence are described, including Fiesole and Impruneta. A “Best of” chapter identifies Florence’s best pastry shops, best markets, and other venues of interest to the traveler.

Italy for the Gourmet Traveler


Eating as the rationale for traveling through Italy, where food and culture are so naturally bound together, is the theme of Italophile Plotkin’s latest book. His ardent admiration for the country and its cuisine is evident in his personalized tour through the nation’s 22 regions, including the islands of Sicily and Sardenia. Guiding us through a land bountiful and diverse in terrain, history, and tradition, he explores each area’s distinctive foods and wines. When not traveling, Plotkin lectures and writes about things Italian and has penned The Authentic Pasta Book and Opera 101. He uses his extensive knowledge to create a catalog of helpful restaurant reviews, recipes (indexed), a glossary of food terms, profiles of cities and their local histories (indexed), and anecdotes that blend into an informative, entertaining, comprehensive guide. This selection is a treat for any travel collection.

Italy Today The Beautiful Cookbook: Contemporary Recipes Reflecting Simple, Fresh Italian Cooking


and Lorenza De’ Medici

Italy Today, the Beautiful Cookbook is the third volume on Italian cooking to join the popular Beautiful series of large format, lavishly illustrated books from HarperCollins. It is more than just a pretty book to set on the coffee table; this is a book cooks will enjoy and one that makes good reading if you are planning a trip to Italy.

Fred Plotkin’s text covers the history, economy, and particular ingredients important in each of Italy’s culinary regions. He also explains how changes in the way Italians live are affecting how they eat. Meals, for example, now follow the traditional structure less rigidly in most parts of the country, with the southern areas holding closest to the old ways. Also, while cooking in Italy is still remarkably regional, people are enjoying recipes less tied to their locality. Use of fresh and local ingredients, however, remains strong.

The recipes are by Lorenza De’ Medici, who also did the food for Italy, the Beautiful Cookbook and Tuscany, the Beautiful Cookbook. Here she offers 220 dishes. Some show how Italians are modifying classics; others illustrate the living quality of Italian cooking in its acceptance of new ingredients and in new ways of using familiar ones. Perfect examples of this are Eggplant with Yogurt and Mint and Rice Salad with Pesto. Beyond all the handsome photographs, this is a source cooks really can use.

La Terra Fortunata: The Splendid Food and Wine of Friuli-Venezia Giulia


The Italian region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia is perhaps the least well known by Americans. Tucked away in the northeastern corner of Italy, stretching almost from Venice to Vienna, the region proudly grows the widest range of grape varieties in all of Italy. The Friulians, therefore, are extraordinarily aware of the interaction between food and wine. Fred Plotkin wrote La Terra Fortunata after 25 years of visiting the small region. His knowledge of its food, its wine, and its people and their customs is immense. Plotkin offers a comprehensive history of the region and great insight and understanding in his choice of recipes and their instructions. There are few generalities that can be used to describe this collection. Friulians are great wine drinkers and have a reputation for working hard, and so have a custom of eating small dishes to wash down with their wine and to satisfy their hunger between meals. So it’s no surprise that many of these dishes can be served alongside one another. The herbs and spices used are not necessarily those we think of as Italian; they are much more international. Yogurt-Dill Sauce sounds Greek and Mustard-Wine Sauce sounds French, but both they and Montasio-Mint Sauce can be found in Friuli (the Montasio cheese gets just a hint of mint, beautiful on pasta or soft polenta). From a garlicky Mussel Frittata to the most traditional Frico Croccante (a thin crispy pancake made entirely of cheese, it makes a delicious cup for Gnocchi with Mountain Herbs or Risotto with Crabmeat and Peas), Plotkin’s recipes are flavorful, unusual, and well explained. Because the region stretches from the coast to the mountains, traditional cooking includes everything from seafood to game and every herb, vegetable, and fruit under the sun. Plotkin introduces every recipe with a story, and they, along with his guide to Friulian wines, make La Terra Fortunata an indispensable guidebook both for the cook and for the armchair traveler.

Recipes from Paradise: Life and Food on the Italian Riviera


Fred Plotkin brings together passion and scholarship, poetry, history, and vivid images of Liguria in Recipes from Paradise, a meticulous and loving record of the region known as the Italian Riviera. Literate and richly written, even florid at times, it documents the interplay of land and sea elemental to Ligurian life in fascinating detail. The alluring, authentic recipes include Stuffed Basil Leaves, Chestnut Gnocchi, and Polenta Incatenata, made with beans, cabbage, and potatoes. Ingredient lists give measures by weight (ounces), volume (cups), and grams, and oven temperatures in Fahrenheit and Centigrade. Some may find this thoroughness distracting, but it makes the book useful to anyone anywhere. More challenging than the careful measurements is the windy narrative form Plotkin employs in the steps for making the dishes; with so many words to wade through, the style may make finding your place difficult. Italophiles and cookbook literati, however, will not care about Plotkin’s verbosity as they are blissfully transported and enlightened by the recipes and descriptions.