'The Italian Table'

New cookbook shows how to dine in Italian style

Cookbook review: ‘The Italian Table’ by Elizabeth Minchilli

It’s no wonder that, when trying to decide what to serve for a company, we often fall back on pizza, pasta, antipasti, gelato or any combination of these Italian classics. They’re uncomplicated, easy to serve, and loved by practically everyone.

What makes these same foods taste so special in Italy goes far beyond their flavors. The people, the surroundings, the tableware and the pacing are as essential to the enjoyment of a meal as the ripeness of the tomatoes or the quality of the cheese.

Elizabeth Minchilli knows this well. The award-winning blogger and prolific author writes about food, style and architecture from her homes in Rome and Umbria, and has spent decades mastering the art of entertaining in her adopted country.

In her latest book, “The Italian Table,” she shows us how we can re-create the essence of an authentic Italian dining experience — be it on a Roman rooftop, in a Renaissance garden, at a market in Florence, a canal-side bar in Venice — even in our own dining rooms or backyards.

Recipes inspired by favorite meals she’s enjoyed all over Italy are presented in 12 sumptuous menus, with captivating descriptions and photographs of casual, real-life occasions. With each, she offers a game plan, drink suggestions, table setting tips and recipes that are as tantalizing-sounding as they are doable.

Even if you’re not up for hosting a party, there’s nothing to stop you from cooking from these pages right now. I pulled together a wonderful little feast from two different menus — Pasta with Smashed Tomatoes and Arugula, and Sausages with Wine and Olives — in about an hour. For dessert, I tried her one-ingredient recipe for Roasted Grapes — so ridiculously simple, yet so good. Many of her recipes aren’t much more difficult: hard-boiled eggs and anchovies skewered with a toothpick, prosecco and vodka whisked into prepared lemon sorbet for a slushy cocktail.

Now that the weather’s warming up, I’m feeling inspired to dust off my patio, send out some evites, and let the celebration begin.

Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.

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