What’s Italian for ‘Smorgasbord’?
Italian food, for me, is a bit like the visiting the MFA: I have a sense of its vastness, its variety, but—time after time—I trundle along the same route, past the big-name American and European masters, and end up standing in front of Isabella and the Pot of Basil. Again. Like most people, I need someone to show me what I’m missing. In short, I need a guide.
For those looking to explore Italian cuisine beyond seafood fra diavolo and pasta puttanesca (and, let’s be honest, fettucine alfredo), there is an excellent guide in the form of Boston’s own G. Franco Romagnoli, who with his wife, Gwen, has just published Italy, the Romagnoli Way (The Lyons Press, 368 pages, $24.95).
More-mature foodies will remember him from his 1970s PBS series, The Romagnolis’ Table, or from his restaurants of the same name in the Boston area. Romagnoli has since gone on to publish numerous cookbooks and food and travel articles, experience he draws on for this sumptuous culinary guidebook.
There are some 20 semi-autonomous regions in Italy, and the Romagnolis do their best to drink and dine their way through as many of them as possible—from Trentino-Alto-Adige in the north, rich with German and Austrian influences (goulash, strudels), to the southern island of Pantelleria, where the flavors of land and sea unite in dishes such as couscous di pesce.
But Italy, the Romagnoli Way is about far more than food. The authors bring us right along as they wander the piazzas and alleyways and chat up the locals. They describe the historic and geographic shifts that flavor the food on regional tables. And, for those of us who’ll get no closer to Italy this summer than jogging past the Alitalia ticket counter on our way to catch a flight to Minneapolis, they even offer recipes to make right here at home.
If you’d like to meet the Romagnolis—and maybe even pick up some tips on sampling regional Italian food here in Boston—the Globe Corner Bookstore in Harvard Square will host the couple for a discussion and book signing at 6 p.m. May 1. For more information, call 617-497-6277 or visit globecorner.com.