Cookbooks have never topped my reading list. Truth be told, they've never been anywhere on the list. However, having a fully functioning sweet tooth, I was drawn to this repository of tasties by the mouth watering full page full-color pictures. Then, I was intrigued by famed chef Mario Batali's description of the author's ability, "From a nearly criminal situation, with lack of space to store products, lack of burners to cook on, tiny ovens, a room often as warm as 118 degrees, and a walk-in fridge shared with the entire savory kitchen, Gina is miraculously able to produce one tasty treat after another."
Readers of this cookbook will agree that is not all DePalma is able to do for her descriptions of the sweets she loves literally sing, and her written candids of life not only at the acclaimed restaurant, Babbo, but also on the streets of Brooklyn where she lives and the markets she frequents are as tantalizing as any travelogue. DePalma's description of being awakened in the middle of the night by dreams of "dolce past" brings smiles, as does her depiction of an American supermarket where fruit "bears the indignity of a numbered sticker smacked onto it." Her standards are high, yet she appaently continues to raise the bar.
Of special help to this reader was the chapter devoted to Italian ingredients that we should know. Of course, when you read DePalma's definition of mascarpone you want to rush out and buy it. Or, once introduced to Amalfi lemons, none other will do. DePalma is a Scherazade, tempting you with every page.
The recipes included cover the gamut of sweets from cookies to cake to spoon desserts to tarts. Then, DePalma moves on to my personal favorites - ice creams and sorbets. "All Things Fried" offers a heavenly Neopolitan Doughnut with Warm Chocolate Sauce, and "Ways With Fruit" presents not only fresh fruits but also marmalades.
Whether you're an experienced cook with a love for Italian sweets or a newbie to the kitchen, you'll find much to enjoy in Dolce Italiano. DePalma writes skillfully and clearly, offering step by step directions as she shares her passion for perfect desserts.
- Gail Cooke