Comments: In singing there is a word – tessitura – that addresses the range of a particular song, whether it is generally high notes, whether it is midrange, etc. The cooking tessitura of Frank Stitt's Bottega Favorita is very high.
It doesn't really mean to be. It sees itself, it seems to us, as a good/really good Italian cookbook that just happens to be written by a chef. The ingredients are obtainable, but just enough trouble to round up that you might not quite get around to it. The instructions and procedures don't look too hard, but added together they are fairly complex and involved (some recipes require four sub-recipes before you complete the dish). And the author pays homage to a leading commandment of Italian cooking – simplicity.
"Each trip to Capri has been inspirational," he says. "I come home eager to convey the purity, simplicity, and spirit of that food to my cooks at Bottega. I tell them to choose the ripest tomatoes, the best produce, and then treat them simply and with respect – a toss with lots of good olive oil and vinegar and maybe some shallots and sea salt – and not tinker anymore."
There are a few recipes in this book with as few as five ingredients, but the average must be at least 12, and there certainly are recipes with more than 20 ingredients.
The chapters feature drinks; antipasti; soups, salads, pizzas, and piadine (wraps); pasta; fish and shellfish; poultry and meats; vegetables, rice, farro, and polenta; desserts (alone worth the price of admission); and a couple dozen basic recipes that are used in making so many of the other dishes.
It's a lovely book. There is a seasonality to it that is inspiring. The authenticity is unquestionable. The photographs are alluring. You will absolutely want to eat at Frank Stitt's restaurants the next time you are in Birmingham, Ala. You will want to cook and eat from his cookbook. It's just a question of whether you can handle the high notes.