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Review of 'Two Greedy Italians' by Antonio Carluccio & Gennaro Contaldo

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Two Greedy Italians - Antonio Carluccio & Gennaro Contaldo
Quadrille - 2011
Photography: Chris Terry

The introduction for 'Two Greedy Italians' sets up the long standing friendship between the two men. One from the North and one from the South of Italy, both food writers and chefs. The key thing about Italian food is the importance of regional cooking and so Contaldo and Carluccio bring different views to the book. They talk of the changes in recent years to Italian meals and attitude to cooking with a loss of focus on meal-time with the family at home and expand upon this later in the book.

Although this starts out as a rather standard Italian cooking book there is a lot packed into it. There are so many additions that by the end it feels closer to a lifestyle cookery book; Carluccio and Contaldo both write small sections dotted around the recipes that give an insight into their own Italy and their favourite ingredients.

Amongst the recipes there are pages that focus on one particular element of Italian life or cookery. These informative sections were well written on the whole but easy to avoid if you were just looking for recipes as they are either italicised or on a separate page. 'Two Greedy Italians' is well organised with clear sections so you can quickly navigate. The font is a little difficult to read, especially with the ingredients listed in bold but the quantities in regular.

The photographs and styling are lovely with lots of evocative pictures both of the food and Italy herself. The pictures are selling Italy and Italian ingredients as well as the recipes.

Quite a few of the dishes would be difficult to size down for only one or two people - or would be a lot of effort for small weekday meals, they are generally more suited to occasion cooking. The ingredients are mostly easy to find and a lot of different diets would be catered to and easily adaptable for families or entertaining.

The vegetarian dishes were my favourites, the Italian style of cooking vegetables is so inventive and that was beautifully represented here. The seafood dishes were also excellent with some interesting fish used although it was a little cod heavy. My least favourite section of the book were the desserts, they were far less appealing than the rest of the recipes and didn't push me to want to get cooking.

Few of the recipes were particularly ground-breaking, this is a book of tradition rather than innovation. While saying that, the traditional recipes are very Italian and might be less familiar for cooks new to regional Italian cooking and this book serves as a great overview of Italian ingredients and methods.

The passion for Italy is clear, I was already an Italophile but I think this might just convert people who aren't. My favourite recipes were: the Canavese Cabbage Soup, the Courgette and Cheese Bake, Gennaro's Mixed Meat Ragu and the Leftover Pasta Omelette.

I have previously reviewed both 'Gennaro's Italian Year' by Gennaro Contaldo and Antonio Carluccio's 'Simple Cooking'. A second book by Contaldo and Carluccio, 'Two Greedy Italians Eat Italy' is due out later this year from Quadrille.