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Love Italy

When a book is this big, and authored by a chef with a reputation that is even bigger - and when it is screaming red-alert - it certainly takes your attention. 

Italy and its food is always an attention-grabber, and Guy Grossi, who has been a chef and lifetime advocate for the cuisine of his heritage, is well-placed to prepare what may become the definitive book on Italy and its food. As a first-generation Australian of Italian parents he bridges the gap, yet chose to follow his chef-father's profession. Veering from being parochial about Lombardy, their home region, he has elected in a massive undertaking to zigzag the entire length of this leg-like peninsula, samply, sipping and sourcing recipes from ten major regions as he travelled.

The result is a book of such depth and stunning beauty (the latter thanks to the full-page images from photographer Mark Chew) that it is a book which could stay on the coffee-table all year, and be sampled and enjoyed like a fine grappa. Or, with 150 of Grossi's recipes in this book, it could provide meals that will transport the family and guests to a different place each time. Dishes such as zucchini pizza, snapper in a salt crust, or strawberry cannoli, are just three of the outstanding offerings on this book's 'menu'.

Not being content with simply travelling and tasting, Grossi made it his business to seek out key food people along the way. Chefs, winemakers, restaurateurs, producers had their say about their passion - the local cuisine. Being Italy, many of these were family enterprises, such as the Boni family in Emilia-Romagna who have been turning out handmade parmesan cheeses for the past 100 years. Or Leonardo and Silvia Gagliardo who makes organic white polenta as their family has for generations.

Grossi is dedicated to the principles of the Slow Food movement, which originated in Italy, so it stands to reason that the people he meets, the food he eats, and the recipes he shares all embrace this fundamental belief of eating simple unadulterated food in season when it is at its peak of flavour and nutrition, and as close to its origin as possible.

With restaurants in Melbourne and Bangkok, Grossi was already one of Australia's foremost authorities on Italian food. This quintessential book will only raise his status further.

Love Italy, by Guy Grossi (photography by Mark Chew), published by Lantern, 2013, hardcover, rrp $100.


- by Sally Hammond


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