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Urban Italian

This much we know about chefs – they can cook. Well, most can. When they can write entertainingly as well – now that is a bonus. Usually I turn straight to the recipes of any chef-book I pick up. After all, that is where the real action is, right?

Certainly, Urban Italian has magnificent photography, mouth-wateringly tasty photography and clearly written apparently do-able recipes, but I became totally hooked reading Carmellini’s (and co-author, Gwen Hyman’s) entertaining autobiographical chapters.

Chef Carmellini’s professional life halted in 2003 while his new restaurant was being built. Suddenly his clientele had shrunk to just one (his wife) and he found himself at a bit of a loose end. Now he had to rework and rethink a lifetime of recipes – preparing them in a tiny space with domestic appliances. The result is Urban Italian.

This book has it all – recipes from a top chef which you know will work at home. When Carmellini, the 2004 winner of the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: New York City, gives the recipe for ‘the best veal osso bucco’ or ‘the perfect panna cotta’ you’d better believe it is. When he shares Mom’s Biscotti or the secrets of risotto, you understand you should pay close attention.

This lovely big, succulent – entertaining – book is worth reading from start to finish. Stories, recipes, hints – everything! It more than lives up to its subtitle: ‘simple recipes and true stories from a life in food’.

Urban Italian, Andrew Carmellini & Gwen Hyman, Bloomsbury, USA (distributed by Allen & Unwin, Australia) hardcover, 2008, $55, available from all good bookstores.  www.andrewcarmellini.com

 

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