Italian food is great—no, world-altering—writes Esquire food and wine correspondent Mariani (The Italian-American Cookbook, 2000, etc.).
Beginning with a historical perspective, the author shows how “Italian food” really had multiple meanings and multiple menus due to the country’s fragmented government until its 1861 unification. The great waves of Italian emigrants, especially to England and the United States, in the 19th century began the global love affair for pasta that has inflated during the past century. Mariani charts the rise of the first Italian-American brands (Ghirardelli, Ragù, Chef Boy-Ar-Dee) and examines countless films and TV shows that involve Italian cuisine—from early Mob movies through The Godfather and The Sopranos. The author also looks at popular song (Dean Martin’s hit “That’s Amore” earns some play time), Italian restaurants across America and the simultaneous rise of Italian wines and high fashion. Gucci and Armani appear in the same book with Rice-a-Roni and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner, which premiered in 1937. Mariani lauds the health benefits of fine Italian food and snarls some about the low-carb Atkins Diet. Those pretentious French chefs, he writes, found themselves turning to olive oil and pasta to survive. And the influence of Ferran Adrià (see Coleman Andrews’ Ferran, 2010) and other inventive molecular gastronomists? “Very limited,” writes the author. Mariani sprinkles recipes throughout, from basic marinara sauce to more demanding dishes like “Egg-Filled Ravioli with Truffles,” and profiles a host of relevant people and places, from Pino Luongo to Paul Bartolotta.
Informed and enlightening, loving and luscious.