by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, Christopher Hirsheimer (Photographer)
“Italian-American food–what cuisine is it?” asks Lidia Matticchio Bastianich in Lidia’s Italian-American Cooking, based on her eponymous PBS TV series. The author of two previous works, La Cucina di Lidia and Lidia’s Italian Table, and co-owner of three acclaimed Manhattan restaurants, Bastianich is ideally suited to explore all Italian fare. “Americans fell in love with Italian cooking first,” she says, thus enshrining a cuisine born of immigrant adaptation. In celebration of that affection, the book offers over 150 recipes for a wide range of dishes–traditional favorites like Baked Stuffed Shells and Lobster Fra Diavolo as well as personal adaptations such as Scampi alla Buonavia and cannelloni made with roasted pork and mortadella. These easily done dishes benefit from Lidia’s subtle polishing; fans of her foolproof palate and her direct yet relaxed approach to Italian cooking will welcome the book.In chapters that reflect the courses of a traditional Italian meal, Lidia offers “new” Italian regional dishes, such as Long Fusilli with Saffron, Mussels, and Zucchini. Soups, a Lidia specialty, are enticingly represented with the likes of Potato, Swiss Chard, and Bread Soup. And of course there are splendid dolci–favorites like Ricotta Cheesecake, but also treats like San Martino Pear and Chocolate Tart. Throughout, Bastianich provides useful sidebars, such as one on scaloppine, and fully illustrated technical instruction, detailing, for example, the best way to stuff a veal chop. With color photos of the mouthwatering dishes, tips, and other cooking insights, the book is a valuable guide to an oft-debased fare finally given its due.