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Frank Stitt's Bottega Favorita:
A Southern Chef's Love Affair with Italian Food
By Frank Stitt, with Katherine Cobbs; Photographs by Christopher Hirsheimer
ISBN: 1579653022
Publisher: Artisan
Publication date: Dec. 2008
Format: Hardcover
Number of recipes: 200+
List price: $40
Type: Ethnic: Italian
Sample recipe: Lamb Spiedini with Sicilian Couscous and Yogurt Sauce
Intended audience: novice advanced beginner good home cook gourmet professional
Apparent goal: stocking stuffer sampler comprehensive encyclopedia coffee-table
Meal part: all breakfast/brunch lunch dinner dessert
Competition: outclassed a bit behind in the pack strong challenger likely champ
Variety: too little too much unusual nice mix just right
Practical recipes: <20% <40% <60% <80% ≥80%
# of ingredients: ≤4 ≤7 ≤10 ≤12 >12
Ingredient hunt: airfare required online specialty store supermarket pantry
Recipe complexity: too hard simple medium challenging professional
Instructions: inadequate verbose minimal complete educational
Time conscious: not conscious bald lies white lies realistic scout's honor
Cooking time: weekend project takes all day takes time ≥30 minutes <30 minutes
Added info: zip overwhelming scant ample generous
Photos/drawings: none drawings b&w photos occasional color all color
Art contribution: disappointing distracting decorative beautiful glorious
Recipe results: ≤dorm food casual food family meals fancy food fit for royalty
Nutritional info: none overwhelming hit or miss adequate comprehensive
Format/Ease of Use
Layout: ugh cluttered fine kind work of art
Legibility: unpleasant challenging ok clear brilliant
Production quality: cheesy delicate years of service gift quality stunning
Page numbers: hard-to-find spotty sufficient most pages every page
Table of contents: missing frustrating minimal helpful excellent
Index: none confusing adequate nice a treasure
Page flipping: upsetting tedious acceptable rare never
Writing history: beginner writer/journalist food writer writing cook personality
Cooking heritage: unknown self-taught teacher chef celebrity
Fulfills ambitions: falls short satisfactory successful exceeds home run
Flavor delivered: sad inconsistent tasty delicious exceptional
Overall tone: sterile trying too hard straightforward good friend mom
Value: ouch! a little pricey worth splurging on the money a deal
Overall rating: skip it good very good excellent Ochef Top 100

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.


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