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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 64.
- Review Date: 2007-08-20
- Reviewer: Staff
DePalma, pastry chef at upscale Italian restaurant Babbo in New York City (owner Mario Batali contributes a foreword), approaches Italian-American desserts from three directions: traditional Italian (Polenta Cookies from the Veneto); Italian-American, learned at the elbow of her Calabrese grandmother (in a charming introduction, DePalma recalls how her grandmother used to visit her family in Virginia, stepping off the plane from New York bearing hunks of cheese, cans of olive oil and DePalma's favorite taralli); and what are best described as American-Italian. The latter are true hybrid desserts, such as a crustless Yogurt Cheesecake with Pine Nut Brittle, which combines mascarpone and the Greek-style yogurt now widely available in U.S. grocery stores. This concoction has probably never appeared on any menu in Italy, but it successfully marries ingredients and techniques from both places, without losing sight of the genuine quality that is the hallmark of Italian food. DePalma's tone is genuine, too, whether she's recalling how she woke up in the middle of the night in her Brooklyn apartment to obsess over a lemon tart or patiently explaining why real balsamic vinegar is costly, but worth it. (Oct.)
La dolce vita
Italian desserts? What comes to mindgelato, tiramisu? OK, but they don't conjure up the extravagances of French or Austrian pastry or the vertical, spun-sugar-crested creations of some of our top chefs. They're not meant to; Italians view the sweet finale in a very different waya perfectly ripe piece of fruit, biscotti with a glass of dessert wine, quietly elegant crostate (fruit tarts), cakes without gobs of frosting, a silky panna cotta or an icy semifreddo. The Italian sweet tooth hasn't been extracted; it's just satisfied with the simple and the seasonal, with desserts that feature the texture and taste of the best local ingredients.
No one makes this clearer than Gina DePalma, pastry chef at Babbo, Mario Batali's renowned New York restaurant. Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen is extraordinary, a fabulous cookbook and a fabulous read. Gina is not only a self-described "dessert-obsessed insomniac," she's a wonderful writer who can inspire and delight with her passion for all things Italiantake the time to read her introduction, short essays and header notes; you'll be well rewarded. More than 135 recipes are divided into nine chapters that cover dolce from tender Almond Fingers, rich Ricotta Pound Cake and Chocolate and Polenta Tart to Creamy Lemon Sorbet and Spiced Blood Orange Marmalade. Mangia bene!