Del Conte (The Italian Pantry, 1990), an Italian now living in London, bases this season-by-season dinner-party-menu cookbook on the principle that ``the most important thing when giving a dinner party is a well-balanced menu.'' Arranged Italian-style in separate courses, her meals contain some odd-sounding dishes--a green salad dressed in sour cream; a spinach torta made with orange juice and cookie crumbs and a pairing of three pounds of asparagus with eight fried eggs (for four people), both of which are presented as vegetarian main dishes--and some oddly repetitive offerings: an outdoor summer lunch that has three different kinds of cold frittata as a main course; a main course at a Bolognese feast for 30 consisting of four different pasta dishes; and--a meal that Del Conte says she often serves--an elaborate fish lasagna containing five kinds of seafood and two rich sauces, with another lasagna layered with tomato-meat sauce. Other dishes on the author's menus range from a first course of thinly sliced raw bresaola (cured and air-dried beef) and many of home-made tagliatelle to main courses of venison stew, bollito misto (mixed boiled meats and vegetables, here with three sauces), and a real drop-dead spectacle, her interpretation of the pie from The Leopard. Desserts are relatively simple, though not predictable. Authentic, no doubt--though hardly what most Italians eat a casa--and it's guaranteed not to duplicate your guests' last dinner out.