cover image Two Meatballs in the Italian Kitchen

Two Meatballs in the Italian Kitchen

Pino Luongo, Mark Strausman, . . Artisan, $35 (319pp) ISBN 978-1-57965-345-3

In this delightful book, Luongo and Strausman, friends and restaurateurs in Manhattan, put a personal spin on the divide between cuisine from Italy and the American variety. Each chapter opens with lengthy back-and-forths between the two over the merits of certain ingredients or cooking methods, and their disagreements over these specifics is as edifying as they are amusing to read; the recipes aren't all simple, but with Luongo and Strausman's vocal observations and tips close at hand, those familiar with Italian cooking techniques should have no trouble mastering them. Luongo's loyalties to his native Tuscany show in recipes such as Garfagnana Bean and Apple Soup and Sausage and Cranberry Beans with Polenta, though he also refers to many of Italy's other regions in his focus on authenticity. Strausman defends his Americanized vision of Italian food with dishes both old-fashioned (Chicken Parmigiana) and chicly modern in flavor (Carrot and Ricotta Ravioli). The indispensable chapter of meatballs and meatloaf crystallizes their disagreements, as Luongo defends small, flavor-packed meatballs with unusual ingredients like amaretto cookies, mostly served on their own, and Strausman advocates the plump kind Americans serve atop spaghetti and tomato sauce. Cooks interested in the distinctions between regional Italian specialties yet still fond of the American versions they grew up with will savor almost every recipe in this spirited book. (Oct.)