by Lindy Wildsmith and Valentina Sforza
Race Point Publishing, June 2013
Hardbound 256 pages $28
If Cicchetti is a word unfamiliar to many American readers, its subtitle, “Delicious Italian Food to Share,” should not be hard to understand. And who could resist such an idea?
Apparently, cicchetti is the Venetian equivalent of Spanish tapas—appetizers or little snacks in American parlance. While this kind of eating may be a tradition of Venice, many of the 100 recipes emanate from other parts of Italy. Most are simple, though exact ingredients may be difficult to source in North America. In many cases, savvy cooks here will be able to find reasonable substitutes. Not so in every situation, though, as the Sardinian Anguilla Nella Foglio di Vite (eel wrapped in vine leaves) sounds good but might be tough to approximate here. Others, such as the Venetian Gratinita di Peoci (gratin of mussels with bread crumbs, parsley and garlic), would be more likely. Friuli in the country's northeast inspires Fegatini alla Triestina (chicken livers in the Trieste style), another simple dish whose ingredients and preparation would make it a snap.
Don't be put off by the fact that the co-authors are both British—or at least living in the U.K. Valentina Sforza has penned more than 30 books on Italian food. Her colleague, Lindy Wildsmith teaches cooking in Wales, often with Franco Taruschio who owned the Walnut Tree in Abergavenny, when it was, arguably, the finest Italian restaurant in Britain and on its way to Michelin Star status. Their credentials would seem solid and in Cecchetti they've created a book that showcases not just some appealing recipes with beautiful photos, but also includes anecdotes that broaden understanding of the regional and cultural contributions to these dishes.
--reviewed by Dan Clarke, whose visits to the Walnut Tree were memorable.