by Santo Lipani (Illustrator), Vincent Schiavelli
As a popular character actor, Vincent Schiavelli’s face is easily recognizable. But you’ll look at this actor–and serious cook–in a new light once you lose yourself in Many Beautiful Things, a compilation of personal stories, with more than 75 recipes, about his visits to a small hilltop town in Sicily called Polizzi Generosa, the birthplace of his grandparents. Schiavelli is embraced as a long-lost by the Polizzani, and they readily share their local legends, town gossip, and the trials and tribulations of living in a place far removed from the rest of Italy. As a result, when he introduces us to the quirky characters who populate the village he does it with a rare sensitivity, and real respect. You’ll cry for Turiddu Lavanca, the lovesick forager; laugh with Za Momo, a friend’s grandmother; and wish you could taste something, anything, made by Pino Agliata, Schiavelli’s favorite pastry chef. In Polizzi, life revolves around the table, and as Schiavelli tells us, “culinary expertise is divided into … those who cook and eat, and those who don’t cook but still eat heartily.” As Schiavelli weaves his tales, slipping in mouth-watering descriptions of dishes like Potato Gratin with Bay Leaves, Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Bechamel, and Pumpkin Caponata, and sweets such as Almond Love Bites and Almond Nougat, you’ll find yourself skipping to the end of each chapter to make sure the recipes are there. Take this book to read on vacation, and then find a place for it in your kitchen.