LA BELLA CUCINA: How to Cook, Eat, and Live Like an Italian

Viana La Place, Author . Clarkson Potter $30 (256p) ISBN 978-0-609-60518-9

La Place (Pasta Fresca, Cucina Fresca and Cucina Rustica) brings the simplicity of the life and food of the Salento (the southernmost part of Apulia in Italy) to the table. The prose paints a vivid picture of rural and small-town life that envelops the reader in its relaxed atmosphere. From capturing in loving detail her neighbor, Signora Pantella, to reminiscences of the big Sunday lunch, La Place takes readers into her stress-free world. The recipes echo this mood. They have the unfussy style that characterizes the region's cuisine, whether it's the robust yet subtle Poaching Halibut Al Modo Mio or the tender, succulent Signora Pantella's Red Peppers al Forno. Vegetables appear both as a section, or a component of pasta sauces, spuntini (morning and afternoon snacks) and meat dishes. Several can be produced in advance to serve at room temperature, such as the delicate Verdura all'Insalata or the Fried Yellow Peppers with Wild Mint and Red Wine Vinegar. In addition, she dispels many myths about starting a meal with antipasto and ending with dessert, explaining that this is the province of restaurants. At the end of the book, she sets out menus that typify her way of life, starting the meal with a small serving of pasta and ending with fruit. Everything is done with a delightful simplicity, which will be attractive to the beginner as well as the experienced cook. (Oct.)

Forecast:This will attract cooks who like to read. Unfortunately, the subtle and simple cover, which echoes the book's style, may not help it stand out from others on the shelf.

Reviewed on: 09/10/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
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