by Patricia Wells, Steven Rothfeld (Photographer)
“We instantly identify ‘trattoria’ with a simple, generous, full-flavored style of food,” writes Wells (Bistro Cooking), and she was sufficiently impressed by trattoria cooking to travel through Italy for about a decade, looking for the best in family-owned and -operated restaurants. The 150 recipes collected here are the result, gathered from many trattorias and regions of the country, and the harvest is memorable, whether it is the sauces (red pesto, made with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, hot red pepper, olives, oil and herbs) or the desserts (toasted hazelnut cake) that most intrigue you. Wells covers appetizers, pasta, rice dishes, breads, meats, fish and more with down-to-earth dispatch and flair. (“Like so many popular dishes,” she cautions, “eggplant Parmesan has been banalized,” and she proposes a corrective.) In between recipes come advisories: “Pay attention to salt” (she prefers sea salt to table) and “Know your beans,” in this case, the dried.