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Book review – Two Greedy Italians

15 April 2011 by
Book review – Two Greedy Italians

Two Greedy Italians By Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo
Quadrille, £20
ISBN 978-184400-942-8

More than 20 years ago Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo separately left Italy for Britain. They worked together at Carluccio's restaurant in Covent Garden and became firm friends.

Two Greedy Italians was written to accompany their BBC TV series, which followed them as they embarked on a journey back to their home towns, to reconnect with their cultural heritage.

According to Carluccio, founder of the eponymous restaurant brand, and Contaldo, the chef who taught Jamie Oliver, there is no such thing as real Italian food. Instead there is "regional Italian food", for until as recently as 1861, Italy consisted of many separate and autonomous kingdoms and dukedoms.

Carluccio is from the North, while Contaldo is from the South and the book touches upon how the two areas differ: "Still a deep rift exists within the country itself, the cultural chasm between the North and South."

Pasta is regional in its shapes, sauces and recipes. In the North, filled pastas such as ravioli and tortellini are common. In Rome, bucatini and spaghetti are found on restaurant menus, while further south you'll find richer, slow-cooked ragu. The book also touches on the difference between cucina ricca and cucina povera, the rich and poor styles of cooking.

There are more than 100 recipes including roasted courgette rolls with gorgonzola and sun-dried tomatoes, salt cod fritters - a traditional Italian street food typically eaten on Christmas Eve in the South, braised greens with polenta cake from the area round Naples, Sardinian bread lasagne, pumpkin chips with tangy breadcrumbs, peaches in white wine, and traditional zabaglione.

The book captures the essence of its authors - their humour, wisdom, curiosity and passion, and their reactions to the realisation that Italy is changing. They fear the loss of local traditions, such as women passing their skills down to their children, but there is also joy in the rediscovery of Italy and its food.

Details on typical Italian ingredients such as tomatoes, wine, balsamic vinegar and Parmesan, along with the beautiful Italian illustrations throughout the book, only add to its authenticity. However, there is also the opportunity for readers to look beyond the clichés and discover real Italian food. With sections on history, family and religion, this book reveals the true Italian way of living and cooking.

If you like this, you'll love these:

La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy by The Italian Academy of Cuisine

â- Lucinda's Rustic Italian Kitchen by Lucinda Scala Quinn and Quentin Bacon

â- Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan and Karin Kretschmann

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