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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
If you want to know the true origins of spaghetti and meatballs or veal parmigiana, don't look to Italy, look to Queens. The early Italian immigrants invented these dishes and many other mainstays of Italian-American cooking, and they are the stars of Lidia Bastianich's book, companion to a new TV series.
In the '80s and '90s, dishes like lasagna and veal parmigiana were pooh-poohed by the Italian chefs who wanted us to know la vera cucina italiana, but they have always had an enthusiastic following. This book pays tribute to authentic Italian-American cuisine, a cuisine of adaptation, created in the boardinghouses and smaller restaurants, by immigrants who tried to re-create the flavors of home without the same ingredients.
As we learn in the preface, Lidia Mattichio Bastianich grew up on traditional Italian food in Istria, the part of Italy ceded to Yugoslavia after World War II. In 1958 her family emigrated to America, to Astoria, Queens, where Lidia worked in Italian-American restaurants and came to know and cook these dishes that were at once familiar and unknown. She and her husband then opened a restaurant, serving Italian-American food for ten years before they went on to open more upscale restaurants serving Italian regional cuisine.
Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen is also a companion book to her new 52-part public TV series. (Indeed, several pages helpfully give the episodes and their dishes in order of broadcast.) But this cookbook is organized traditionally, from antipasto to dessert, with gorgeous color photos of the finished dishes and black-and-white instructional photos that demonstrate, for example, how to unroll and stuff porchetta, or how to prepare shrimp scampi style.
All your favorite dishes from this ethnic cuisine are here -- pizza, sausage and peppers, penne alla vodka, lobster Fra Diavolo with spaghettini, spiedini, fritto misto, baked cannelloni, and lasagna -- but they are given that extra Bastianich touch. It's a good reason to celebrate this slice of Americana. (Ginger Curwen)