by Anne Bianchi
Italy is a land of feste–religious and secular festivals featuring wonderful food. Whether held in honor of a patron saint or dedicated to food itself (the town of Piediluco celebrates fish, for example; Massarosa, the crab; Bozzello, chestnuts), these events take local bounty to great culinary heights. Italian food writer and cooking teacher Anne Bianchi has visited Italy’s 18 regions and returned with over 200 festival recipes. These are not only uniquely good, but illuminate vital culinary traditions. Organized by course, from appetizers to desserts, they remind one constantly of the great integrity of Italian home cooking: its commitment to impeccable ingredients treated as simply as possible to achieve the most pleasurable result. Irresistible examples of this wisdom include Lazio’s Walnut, Mozzarella, and Prosciutto Sandwiches; Baked Rice Casserole with Zucchini and Potatoes from Calabria; the Veneto’s Spaghetti Tubes with Duck Sauce; Swordfish Steaks Baked with Tomatoes, Raisins, and Olives from Sicily; and Butternut Squash Bread from Friuli–one of many mouthwatering recipes included in a chapter devoted to soups, breads, focaccias, and pizzas. Bianchi also provides a level-of-difficulty notation for all of the recipes, most of which rate–and truly are–“easy.” Recipe headnotes offer relevant celebration profiles, while photos depict the events themselves. Not the least of the book’s pleasures are nine adroit essays, woven throughout, that explore the people of the feste–remarkable culinary legacies, skillfully shared.