Anthony Capella, Author . Viking $21.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-670-03322-5

"She had never eaten food like this before. No: she had never eaten before." And that's just the first of 22-year-old Laura Patterson's gustatory epiphanies in Rome, where she has come to study art history. Handsome Tomasso seduces her with succulent baby artichokes and frothy zabagliones, but what the reader knows and Laura doesn't is that Tomasso is a waiter. The creator of the rapturous meals is his best friend, Bruno, who has a big nose, a poet's soul and a mad passion for Laura. Capella's spin on Cyrano is his debut novel, but his sentences are as expert as Bruno's sauces, and he serves up a brilliant meal of soothing predictabilities punctuated by surprises. Secondary characters are fully realized, especially earthy Benedetta, Bruno's truffle country consolation until she urges him to follow his heart back to Laura. The cooking lesson e-mails at the end of the book are like a second glass of grappa, too much of a good thing, but Capella is deservedly the subject of buzz in the food world. This is a foodie treat. Agent, Caradoc King, A.P. Watt, London. (July 12)

Forecast: Sophisticated gourmets will realize right away that Capella's no poseur (he quotes Marcella Hazan, for starters). With film rights sold to Warner and foreign rights sold in Brazil, Finland, Germany, Holland, Japan, Sweden and the U.K, this is poised for high-caloric success. Five-city author tour.

Reviewed on: 06/14/2004
Release date: 07/01/2004
Paperback - 310 pages - 978-0-452-28655-9
Hardcover - 496 pages - 978-0-7862-7274-7
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