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The art of traditional Italian

Italian-born chef, Lucio Galletto OAM, has long been associated with art. For over thirty years, the clientele of his eastern-suburbs restaurant have been almost as impressed by the artwork hanging on the restaurant's walls around them as they were by the Lucio's own art on their plates.

In this lovely cookbook, Galletto's fifth, he has chosen original works, specially created for the book, from ten renowned Australian artists, all of them his friends. Their work ranges from playful drawings of Mediterranean vegetables (Joshua MacPherson) to delicate sketches of animals by Jason Benjamin, and hearty oil paintings of fishermen by Euan MacLeod.

Of course the marriage of food and art is intrinsic to Lucio Galletto, as it is to his many devoted diners. In this large book, full pages are given, not only to the art pieces but also equally beautiful photographs, taken by Ben Dearnley, and Galletto's own recipes, many of which will be recognisable from Lucio's menus over the years.

Matching the simplicity of many of the images, the quintessentially traditional recipes are equally approachable; many with few ingredients, while even the more complicated are carefully explained and clearly written.

With his background in coastal Liguria in Italy's north-west, many of Lucio's dishes are seafood based, or harking back to the family's garden in Italy, which he says was bursting with vegetables and ingredients for fresh salads.

Throughout, the hiomespun recipes are a reminder, as Galleto says in the book's introduction, that 'as we become increasingly preoccupied with provenance and freshness of our ingredients, we get closer and closer to the real peasant way of looking at food'.

This is a book for many people: cooks, art aficionados, or just those who have fond memories of dining amongst art at Lucio's restaurant, or simply want to have such a beautiful book on their own coffee table.

Grazie, chef!


The Art of Traditional Italian, by Lucio Galletto, published by Lantern, 2014, rrp A$59.99, hardcover.


- reviewed by Sally Hammond



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