Italian cookbooks

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Venezia: Food and Dreams

Tessa Kiros, Murdoch Books, £25

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Venetians are ‘pensive and elusive’ and not very keen on sharing their recipes, according to Tessa Kiros in her opulent book on the food of Venice. It’s probably because we are wary of visitors who seem too ready to fall for travel-brochure Venice, while ignoring the more prosaic reality of a fragile city left to grapple with tides of tourists, floods, skyrocketing house prices and the loss of the neighbourhood shop to souvenir emporia. Not to mention the impossibility of finding a table at one of the few decent restaurants without an advance reservation.

Subtitled ‘Food and Dreams’, Kiros’ volume easily falls into the tourist cliché. It’s heavy on dreamy postcard-style jottings and sumptuous pictures, but light on insights about Venetian cooking and its unique character.

All too often Kiros lazily writes ‘this is on every menu in Venice’, when introducing a recipe, without explaining the history or context of the dish she is enticing us to cook. But when she doesn’t get too distracted by her reverie, Kiros presents a good mix of traditional dishes along with more ambitious, yet workable dishes inspired by restaurant visits. She must have managed to snatch a few tips from reluctant locals, after all.

Where the book succeeds in winning over hardened Venetians is the chapter devoted to cicheti, the tapas-like snacks that we love washing down with a glass of wine in the company of friends, while taking refuge from daydreaming tourists.

Elena Berton, Time Out London Issue 2000/1: December 18-31 2009

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