Italian cookbook you can't rely on

Burning Questions

May 24, 2006|By ERICA MARCUS

This week, I'm posing a question to myself: what do i think of victoria gotti's new cookbook, hot Italian dish?

This has got to be one of the worst cookbooks to be published in years. We get a litany of Italian-American chestnuts, which, we must surmise, were inspired by a recent trip to "the Motherland." But Gotti's observations about Italian food range from prosaic to just plain wrong.

During her trip she takes an "unforgettable" cooking lesson from Anna, an Italian home cook who teaches her how to make linguine with white clam sauce. But Gotti never mentions what kind of clams Anna used - in Italy, tiny vongole veraci are typical - and her own version calls for 2 1/2 dozen littlenecks and 2 (6.5-ounce) cans of chopped clams. Now that's Italian.

Gotti's recipe for fettuccine has you rolling out the dough to 1/4 -inch thickness (1/16-inch is more like it) and she notes, erroneously, that in Italy "you'll rarely find a restaurant that serves dried pasta; fresh pasta is as accessible as a slice of pizza!"

Gotti cites the Roman use of pecorino Romano instead of parmesan cheese as an example of Romans' "experimenting with different ingredients in different dishes." Did the word Romano tacked on to the end of pecorino not tip her off to the fact that it is the most classic and traditional of Roman cheeses?

There are so many hard-working Italian cookbook writers out there who don't have TV shows or famous last names. I commend to you the excellent works of Erica de Mane, Michele Scicolone, Fred Plotkin, Carol Field, Giuliano Bugialli and Marcella Hazan, serious people who have devoted their careers to understanding and explaining Italian food.

Erica Marcus writes for Newsday. E-mail your queries to burningquestions@newsday.com, or send them to Erica Marcus, Food/Part 2, Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Road, Melville, NY 11747-4250.

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