I have a HUGE cookbook library...seriously. And many many on the food and culinary culture of Italy and environs. It takes a LOT to wow me. This book totally does that. It is very very excellent. A very balanced and insightful blending of the author's narrative storytelling that I found more than wonderful, and really excellent regional recipes. This book is beyond readable. He shares stories that are personal and interesting, but also he shares some of the BEST insight into the history and food culture that I have ever found in any cookbook. I learned so much just flipping to one page in which he tells an utterly fascinating story about tomatoes and a particular variety much beloved in Sicilia. The book is well peppered with such lore and all the segments are very well-written. It is the most 'feet-on'the-ground' reading of this type I have found. The narrative about pasta is just amazing as well. The photos are amazing and plentiful so that you can see most all of the prepared dishes which is really helpful if you are seeking authentic end results.
I love the recipe collection. Despite my massive #of cookbooks, there are plenty in here that I found new and/or different. Great array of pastas (along with an excellent narrative on the history of pasta in Italy which dispells some of the mythology that Marco Polo brought it all back from China since the author references Estruscan and Roman drawings and also medieval writings which contain pastas and all predate Marco Polo's journey...who knew??) I find most of the recipes very accessible in terms of ingredients and difficulty - I usually don't care about this point at all because this is not remotely an issue where I live, but I mention it because I've read many a tirade against cookbook authors from folks who live where imported food items must be scarce. That said, there are a few ingredients mentioned that will be nearly impossible to find and in those cases he does mention alternatives.
I find the book very accessible and somehow he makes all the food seem very familiar. I don't find that necessarily true in other cookbooks on this same subject. Lots of great fresh vegetable-based recipes with straightforward cooking methods. To be clear, this IS Sicilian food so it is based on ingredients like anchovies (plenty!), eggplant, olives, artichokes, tomatoes, more anchovies, capers, dry pastas, broccolis, etc etc. If you aren't keen on these ingredients, this is not for you. There is a great concise section on Sicilian wines. A dynamite section on frozen desserts (granite, ice cream...mmmm)with some excellent background on the 'whys' of technique.
I could go on and on but I am heading off to whip up some of the artichoke caponata and then read some more of his great tales of Sicily. This book is a great thing for anyone who plans to travel there: I travel to other parts of Italy periodically and found that one of the best portals into local culture is taking the time before I go to get up into the food culture; this and his other book are superb and even if you don't plan to travel there, I think reading what he shares is a great alternative.
Final word: EXCELLENT!!