Cortellini has led a well-traveled life—a fact reflected in the selection of alluring recipes featured here, ranging from nostalgic comfort food to higher-end cuisine. At a young age in the early 1950s, he migrated to the U.S. from Italy with his mother and brother to meet their father there. After first living in an Italian neighborhood in the Bronx, the family eventually settled in Indianapolis, where his mother continued to cook in the Italian tradition but with modifications to adapt to the ingredients available and affordable in America. Her culinary innovation means many of the Italian recipes included in the book have a distinctly American touch, such as lasagna that substitutes Kraft American cheese with pimento and Kraft Swiss cheese for besciamella sauce (Cortellini does admit, however, that “the traditional version using besciamella sauce is far superior”). As an adult, Cortellini had a career as a banking and finance executive, which uprooted him and his wife to several European countries, including France, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom in addition to his native Italy. The international travel allowed him to expand his personal menu beyond his mother’s Italian home-cooking, with dishes such as avocats aux crevettes (avocado with shrimp and American sauce) from Luxembourg; still, hearty Italian remains the staple. The tempting recipes, even the more complicated concoctions, are approachable and well-explained thanks to Cortellini’s frankness and attention to detail. Those traits become a burden, however, in the time between recipes when personal history takes center stage. Here, the text becomes bogged down in lengthy discussions, such as one on the process of strengthening internal controls at a technology company. Names of seemingly every friend, acquaintance and one-time employee are dutifully offered as well—something that is sure to delight the author’s inner circle, though it makes for a laborious reading experience for anyone else. Readers might be tempted to skim these parts or simply skip them altogether and go straight to where the book really shines: the recipes.
A delicious buffet of family recipes with too generous a helping of memoir.