Cookbook review: Studies in simple, vegetable-forward elegance

‘Via Carota: A Celebration of Seasonal Cooking from the Beloved Greenwich Village Restaurant’ by Jody Williams and Rita Sodi with Anna Kovel (Knopf, $40)
"Via Carota: A Celebration of Seasonal Cooking from the Beloved Greenwich Village Restaurant" by Jody Williams and Rita Sodi with Anna Kovel (Knopf, $40)

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

"Via Carota: A Celebration of Seasonal Cooking from the Beloved Greenwich Village Restaurant" by Jody Williams and Rita Sodi with Anna Kovel (Knopf, $40)

Since its 2014 opening, Via Carota has remained one of New York City’s most coveted reservations. I was lucky enough to score one a few years ago when a dining critic friend invited my husband and me to join him there for lunch. We savored every bite as we basked in the cozy trattoria’s farmhouse-like surroundings, vowing to one day return.

That vow has been renewed since receiving a copy of “Via Carota: A Celebration of Seasonal Cooking from the Beloved Greenwich Village Restaurant” (Knopf, $40), where chefs Jody Williams and Rita Sodi, partners in business and marriage, share the secrets behind their simple, yet astonishingly flavorful, vegetable-forward specialties.

Williams, a California native, started her restaurant career in New York soon after college, and spent three years delving into Italian cuisine in Rome. Sodi, who learned to roll pasta while growing up in Tuscany, worked in the fashion industry before finding her niche in professional kitchens.

On respites from running well-received restaurants they owned separately in Greenwich Village — Buvette and I Sodi — they cooked together at Sodi’s 17th-century restored villa on Via del Carota in the hills near Florence. Eventually they sold that home, bringing with them its birch chapel chairs and other memorabilia to lend character to their joint venture in New York.

Like their menus, the recipes in the duo’s first cookbook are rustic and relaxed. Organized by season, they’re heavily — but not exclusively — plant-based, with short ingredient lists and mostly uncomplicated techniques, with a handful of homemade pastas and breads for more ambitious home cooks.

The ones I’ve tried are studies in elegant simplicity: Cannellini with Sage, Tomato, and Sausage; Roasted Carrots, Spiced Yogurt, and Pistachios; Crushed Potatoes and Caramelized Shallots. And their method of sauteing spinach so that the leaves are cooked “until they’re so soft they feel like silk” is a true revelation.

In their restaurant as well as these pages, their shared philosophy about dining is clear: “The outside world should not intrude when you are at the table.”

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

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