Books: Cooking by Cuisine -> Cooking Italian
Many Beautiful Things: Stories and Recipes from Polizzi Generosa
Lipani, Santo (Illustrator)
Simon and Schuster
Published: October 16, 2002
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As a popular character actor, Vincent Schiavelli's face is easily recognizable. But you'll look at this actor--and serious cook--in a new light once you lose yourself in Many Beautiful Things, a compilation of personal stories, with more
than 75 recipes, about his visits to a small hilltop town in Sicily called Polizzi Generosa, the birthplace of his grandparents. Schiavelli is embraced as a long-lost by the Polizzani, and they readily share their local legends, town gossip, and the
trials and tribulations of living in a place far removed from the rest of Italy. As a result, when he introduces us to the quirky characters who populate the village he does it with a rare sensitivity, and real respect. You'll cry for Turiddu Lavanca,
the lovesick forager; laugh with Za Momo, a friend's grandmother; and wish you could taste something, anything, made by Pino Agliata, Schiavelli's favorite pastry chef.
In Polizzi, life revolves around the table, and as Schiavelli tells us,
"culinary expertise is divided into ... those who cook and eat, and those who don't cook but still eat heartily." As Schiavelli weaves his tales, slipping in mouth-watering descriptions of dishes like Potato Gratin with Bay Leaves, Zucchini Flowers
Stuffed with Bechamel, and Pumpkin Caponata, and sweets such as Almond Love Bites and Almond Nougat, you'll find yourself skipping to the end of each chapter to make sure the recipes are there. Take this book to read on vacation, and then find a place
for it in your kitchen. --Leora Y. Bloom
Vincent Schiavelli is known to most of us as a character actor who has appeared in such films as Ghost, Man on the Moon, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Schiavelli grew up
in Brooklyn, speaking both Sicilian and English at home. Some of his earliest memories are of sitting at the kitchen table while his grandparents told stories of the life and the people they had left behind in Polizzi Generosa, a small city in the
Madonie Mountains of Sicily.
As Schiavelli grew older, those stories, and the city about which they were told, took on a mythic quality. When he was nearly forty he made his first trip there, and what he found was more extraordinary than the
"once upon a time" fables of his childhood.
In Many Beautiful Things, Schiavelli invites readers to join him in discovering the people, culture, and food of the city that has, in essence, become his second home. Equal parts memoir and cookbook,
it is the best of both. Schiavelli is an accomplished and elegant writer who evokes a foreign and often closed culture from a unique perspective: an outsider fluent in the language with still-strong familial ties.
The recipes -- which reflect the
ancient influences of Greece, North Africa, and Spain -- are simple, rustic, and delicious, depending on local products and seasonal bounty. This is not your usual Southern Italian fare but a unique regional cuisine: Pumpkin Caponata, Ditali with Drowned
Lettuce, Fried Ricotta Omelet, Potato Gratin with Bay Leaves, Almond Love Bites, Veal Shoulder Roasted with Marsala, and Baked Pasta with Almonds (rigatoni baked in a pork ragu with chopped toasted almonds) are just a few of the extraordinary dishes
you'll find in this book, all of which can be reproduced by cooks with delectable results.
Schiavelli provides a comprehensive list of mail-order sources. And if you want to visit Polizzi Generosa, there's a guide on how to get there, where to
stay, and where to eat. Illustrated with black-and-white line drawings by Polizzi's best known artist, Santo Lipani (who also happens to be an extraordinary cook), Many Beautiful Things is a feast, both culinary and literary.
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