Rocco DiSpirito, Author . Hyperion $24.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7868-6857-5

DiSpirito, who lent his name and career to Rocco's, the restaurant that was the subject of the NBC reality show The Restaurant , offers utterly familiar Italian-American recipes. On television, DiSpirito hired his mother as top meatball maker; here he provides Mama's Meatballs and a host of other dishes he ate while growing up. The most interesting reading is actually DiSpirito's mother's autobiographical essay, which includes the story of how she came to move to Queens from Italy when she was 24, in the late 1940s. In his own essay, DiSpirito repeats some of the same information. (His mother "had overcome monumental challenges for us.") DiSpirito's writing is clunky, with obvious statements such as "Soup is, hands down, the most comforting, restorative food a person can eat, as far as I am concerned." Recipes, which include active time and total time required, tend to the mundane, such as Shrimp Scampi and Linguine with Clams. Some chapters are oddly short, such as a Parmigiana chapter with only three recipes, and one on eggs, which also consists of just three dishes. A master recipe for homemade pasta would be difficult for a novice to follow, and Baked Sausage and Nutella Panini is simply misguided. This is a disappointing follow-up to DiSpirito's far superior Flavor . Photos. (Nov. 17)

Forecast: This will get a boost from a Today show appearance, although DiSpirito's current status (as a kitchenless chef, after the recent closing of Rocco's and his firing from Union Pacific, his other Manhattan eatery), could negatively affect sales.

Reviewed on: 10/11/2004
Release date: 11/01/2004
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