Poco Pane, Poco Vino: a little bread, a little wine
Stories and art by Gina Gigli Recipes by Ruggero Gigli
Villa Gigli Presswww.villagigli.com
After I returned from a recent vacation in Italy a friend pressed this book upon me requesting that I review it for the journal he owns, writes, edits, and manages. Cynicism and skepticism in full flower after having savored the wonderful ingredients and cuisine in Italy, I read the book as an obligation to a friend. Now I owe him a favor for having introduced me to such a great book.
After reading the book in full and being charmed by its every aspect: art, stories and recipes, I tried some of the recipes. Man is endowed with five senses: sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing. This book is a delight for the eyes to behold just for its wonderful drawings. The recipes and text conjure the wonderful aromas one could expect from the tales told, ingredients described and directions given. When cooked, the recipes enchant the nose. The recipes, when tasted, delight the tongue. But perhaps best for the senses and the heart, is eating these foods with others and hearing the appreciative comments of those with whom you share them.
As I understand the Italian approach to food it is something to be enjoyed and shared, not something which tries to attain the perfected essence of any product or ingredient. The point in using wonderful ingredients to their advantage and yours is not to change them. Gigli succeeds, in my opinion, in getting at the philosophy of the Italian table. A plus is that you do not have to shop at markets in Tuscany to achieve those goals.
Mr. Gigli’s recipes use Californian and American ingredients that are readily available. It means, quite simply, that these wonderful recipes can be made without ordering exotic ingredients from far away places at great expense. Sonoma Jack Cheese is recommended, not some hard to find expensive cheese. The wines paired are Californian varieties. California extra virgin olive oil is recommended where appropriate. Produce available in California shops and elsewhere in the United States is included in the recipes.
You do not have to go out and hunt for tagliatelle in some store or pasta shop. There are simple directions for making it at home. And, if it does not work out as as quite well as if you had done it in a restaurant in Bologna or Florence a thousand times, "no problem"--you have just learned how to do it yourself. However, you could also follow the author’s suggestions and buy the "fresh" pasta at your local supermarket. In either event you will enjoy the recipe produced.
Serious and beginning cooks with an interest in making good Italian food can use this book to advantage. I especially like the way the book can be used as a guide for the fundamentals of Italian cooking. Techniques for baking your own bread, toasting crostini, making your own fresh pasta, preparing the sautéed vegetables to go into the soup or stew are all laid out for you to do by the authors. More sophisticated preparations, which combine these and other recipes, are also in the book. The most important lesson is cook and eat well.
As a good friend with some experience with cookbooks said, "The recipes are each on a single page." For any cook that is a great benefit. You just know that was a conscious choice of the authors. This is another way that the book makes it easy for you to make and enjoy great food.
Poco Pane leaves one envious and joyful that this husband and wife have worked together to craft this book with such style. Here is hoping there is more to come.
--Reviewer Mike Petersen is an attorney employed at the state capitol who travels whenever he can to try new foods and wines in California and Europe. He especially enjoys cooking and eating Italian, Spanish, French, German and other dishes that he has sampled with the locals here and abroad. Mike is a founder and chair of Mr. P’s Wine Club, a no-load wine club whose members love trying new wines and foods. He also searches for Chicago-style, kosher hot dogs wherever he may be.