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Jan 16, 2008 06:37 PM

What's a great book about eating in Italy?

I can't get to Italy, unfortunately, for the foreseeable future. What could I read that would make me salivate and learn something interesting about great restaurants, food producers and regions? Not a cookbook or a guidebook unless there's a lot of essay-type material included.

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  1. Faith Willinger is an American food writer and cooking teacher who in married to an Italian and has lived there for the past 30+ years. Two of her books, "Adventures of an Italian Food Lover: With Recipes from 254 of My Very Best Friends" and "Eating in Italy: A Traveler's Guide to the Hidden Gastronomic Pleasures of Northern Italy " are delicious to read, and would definitely fall into the category you are looking for.

    And have you read "Under the Tuscan Sun?"

    4 Replies
    1. re: ChefJune

      Faith is great. Fred Plotkin's books, also, though they're more like guide books.

      Fiction: Eat, Pray, Love -- Italy is the Eat portion of the book

      Sicily: On Persephone's Island, by Mary Taylor Simeti, all about the food, land, people, festivals, wonderful.

      1. re: maria lorraine

        I love Fred Plotkin's _Italy for the Gourmet Traveler_. Even though it's a guidebook, I find it fun to read his descriptions of the regions and the iconic cities in them.

        I know that everyone recommends _On Persephone's Island_, but I could never get into it. I much prefer Mary Taylor Simeti's _Pomp and Sustenance_, which is more of a historical overview of food in Sicily. Maybe not what the OP is looking for, as there's really nothing about restaurants, but it's a book about food that I'd like to curl up with.

        One cookbook that I really like to read is Carol Field's _In Nonna's Kitchen_, where she has recipes from traditional grandmothers across Italy. The essays about the nonne, where they grew up, and how they learned to cook really made me appreciate different areas and customs.

        1. re: maria lorraine

          "Eat, Pray, Love" isn't fiction - it's a memoir, and the writing about eating and restaurants in Italy is great! Too bad she goes to India and has boring temple food for the whole next chapter. ;)

          1. re: Raedia

            Silly me. Of course, you're right. Eat, Pray, Love is Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir. A great, fast read. Thanks for the correction.

            More reading ideas:
            Vanilla Beans and Brodo: Real Life in the Hills of Tuscany, by Isabella Dusi
            As the Romans Do: The Delights, Dramas, and Daily Diversions of Life in the Eternal City, by Alan Epstein
            The Collected Traveler: Central Italy, Tuscany and Umbria, edited by Susan Cahill
            Desiring Italy – Women Writers Celebrate the Passions of a Country and Culture
            Italy – True Stories of Life on the Road, edited by Anne Calcagno
            That Fine Italian Hand, by Paul Hoffman . Also by him: The Seasons of Rome - A Journal

        1. I have really enjoyed Marlena De Blasi's books (in this order): A Thousand Days in Venice, A Thousand Days in Tuscany and The Lady in the Palazzo: At Home in Umbria.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Taralli

            Second that. A Thousand Days in Tuscany was recommended by a fellow hound and I adored it.

            1. re: yumyum

              I've read all three. The one about Venice is my favorite. The Tuscany book is rather sad.

          2. I am enjoying "A Culinary Traveller in Tuscany- Exploring and Eating off the Beaten Track" by Beth Elon. Can't remember where I heard of this book, and I have read a dozen at least, but this one is wonderful!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Greatfallsdeb

              Some of the best and most evocative writing about Italy and its food is in cookbooks--I'm thinking of Nancy Harmon Jenkins's The Flavors of Puglia or Viana LaPlace's La Bella Cucina, also about Puglia, and both anchoring essay, memoir, culture,and travel in very informative, detailed recipes. For a unique portrait of a different Tuscany, I always recommend Elisabeth Romer's The Tuscan Year, a season by season memoir of the very rural Tuscan table, among countryfolk, but without an ounce of the boorish self-regard that can sometimes sour these tales.