Italian Street Food –
Recipes From Italy’s Bars and Hidden Laneways
By Paola Bacha
Smith Street Books – £25.00
Like most great eateries the length and breadth of many a foreign land, it’s always those off the beaten track which prove to be the most inexpensive and inviting. Not to mention usually the best. Only problem is – if such be the word – is actually locating them.
So far as Italy is concerned, this all round terrific book may well tick a number of surprisingly unconsidered, gastronomical purposes (and boxes). Namely, that you can learn to rustle-up an assortment of proper, delicious Italian street food of your own.
Something which, to all intents and cuisine induced purposes, ain’t no bad thing signor.
Who wouldn’t want to be in a position of being able to bring such regional delights as Pizzette con Gorgonzola e Fungi (Gorgonzola and Mushroom Pizette), Suppli al Telefono con Ragu (Suppli with Meat Ragu) or Pizza Bianca con Mortazza (Roman Mortadella Sandwich) to life – in the relative comfort of their own kitchen?
Being something of a foodie myself, I do have to say Italian Street Food – Recipes From Italy’s Bars and Hidden Laneways, is something of a true delight to both behold and fervently indulge in.
As let’s face it, ”food is central to the Italian way of life.”
Just as authoress Paola Bacchia makes exceedingly clear in this book’s fine Introduction: ”I have never met an Italian who did not mention food in almost every conversation. Describing what their last meal or spuntino (snack) was or what their next one will be, invariably with a strong opinion on the dish. And just like my father had repeated to me, for the average Italian, their mamma is the best cook, maybe only surpassed by nonna (grandmother) before she hands on the baton […] to the next generation. Region, provenance and seasonality always matters to them, so it stands to reason that street food in Italy combines all of these elements […].”
Just as, to a certain degree, do these 271 pages.
Replete with an array of (predominantly) colour photographs, it goes without saying that Italian Street Food essentially depicts that what it says on the tin/cover Although what fundamentally accounts for the quality and prime difference in Italian (street) food, is the vast variance in regionality: ”It is as much about geography as it is about tradition; what grows locally and is plentiful is more likely to be a key part of a particular dish. A traditional porchetta (roast pork) roll made by an artisan porchettaio (porchetta-maker) in Abruzzo will probably taste different from a porchetta roll eaten in Umbria. It might be made with different herbs (wild fennel in Umbria and rosemary in Abruzzo), the pig will have been raised on different land with different feed, and there will be some secret ingredient or cooking method handed down from mamma (or another family member equally qualified in the kitchen) that makes their porchetta better than everyone one else’s.”
My Italian mates are forever carping on about how their mother simply makes the best this, that or the other. And while there’s absolutely no debate to be had, let alone considered; amid these nine succulent chapters lie many an answer as to what may substantially qualify one Taralli al Limone (Lemon Taralli) being different or at least better from another.
Along with a helpful section entitled ‘Notes on Ingredients,’ this most mouth-watering of cookery books is altogether way too meraviglioso for words.
Not to mention a fine addition to any serious contender in the cucina.