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Mike Isabella's Crazy Good Italian: Big Flavors, Small Plates

Mike Isabella's Crazy Good Italian: Big Flavors, Small Plates

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by Mike Isabella

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Discover the tastes of New Jersey childhood alongside the refined flavors that come from decades in the culinary world.

Whether you know Mike Isabella as the tough-talking Top Chef competitor or as the  chef behind hot DC restaurants Graffiato and Bandolero, you’ll now be able to recreate his recipes: one part old-world inspired Italian, one part


Discover the tastes of New Jersey childhood alongside the refined flavors that come from decades in the culinary world.

Whether you know Mike Isabella as the tough-talking Top Chef competitor or as the  chef behind hot DC restaurants Graffiato and Bandolero, you’ll now be able to recreate his recipes: one part old-world inspired Italian, one part old-school Jersey, one part modern Mediterranean—all parts delicious.
Inspired by the food his Italian-American grandmother prepared, Isabella serves up 200 recipes for everyday meals that appeal to the heart and the appetite, with a modern twist. These “small plates” versions of Mediterranean classics are food that's original and accessible, authentic without being fussy.
Isabella shares his secret family recipes, the dishes that made him famous on Top Chef, and signature meals from his restaurant, from Ricotta with Charred Scallion and Harissa to Grandma’s Potato Gnocchi, Chicken Wings with Pepperoni Sauce to Carnival-Style Zeppoles. Whether you’re a seasoned home cook or just starting out in the kitchen, you’ll taste the pure joy these meals can bring. Delive ring lip-smacking food (and talking some smack while he’s at it), Isabella makes Italian fun to cook again.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Top Chef Isabella's grandmother—he grew up cooking with her in New Jersey—was the inspiration behind his restaurant Graffiato in Washington, D.C., which serves small plate, "non-traditional" Mediterranean food. And in his first book, Isabella incorporates those recipes he grew up making with the food he serves at Graffiato. He describes his dishes as "recipes that make the ordinary extraordinary and incorporate ingredients and flavors that give everyday home cooking that special twist.... big, bold flavors on small plates." Isabella covers the whole food spectrum with gorgeous photos and 12 original and inventive chapter headings like "The Shell Game," "Gone Hogging," and "Lamb, lamb, goat." Dishes are simple but also exciting. The chapter "Bites and Snacks" from the Isabella household includes recipes for spicy popcorn made with parmigiano cheese and red chili flakes While the chapter "Jersey Shore Style: Everything Fried" presents soft-shell crab with polenta crust and corn. "Not Your Sunday Macaroni" is all about making fresh pasta and experimenting with different sauces such as black spaghetti with clams, pancetta, and red chili (made with squid ink pasta dough. In the end, Isabella revs up the classics with a distinctive spin. (Dec.)
From the Publisher

Every Day with Rachael Ray, September 2012“What do you get when you cross a Top Chef All-Star with an Italian-American childhood? Isabella’s first cookbook, which includes family traditions (check out Grandma’s potato gnocchi) and the chef’s own creations (remember that pepperoni sauce from Top Chef?). It’s a mix that totally says deizioso.”

DailyCandy.com, 9/18/12
“Mike Isabella’s talent for upending the ordinary (hello, pepperoni sauce) lit up two seasons of Top Chef. He spills his secrets—and some of his Nonna’s, too—in his debut cookbook, Mike Isabella’s Crazy Good Italian, a collection of 200 lip-smacking recipes.”

New Jersey Monthly, October 2012“Well organized, crisply written and handsomely produced, it ranges from Jersey Shore-style fried food to family recipes from Antoinette and others to his own lively take on Italian classics.”

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Da Capo Press
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Meet the Author

Mike Isabella is the Chef/Owner of Graffiato, which opened in June 2011 in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The 130-seat Italian-inspired spot features small plates, locally cured meats, artisanal pizzas, and pastas with seasonal ingredients influenced by the food Chef Isabella grew up eating in New Jersey prepared by his Italian-American grandmother.

For the past 15 years, he has worked for some of the world’s most renowned chefs and cooked to critical acclaim at restaurants all over the country. Before opening Graffiato, Chef Isabella was the executive chef of José Andrés’ Zaytinya. During his three-year tenure, Chef Isabella generated accolades and national attention for Washington, D.C.’s Mediterranean powerhouse restaurant. Chef Isabella’s formal training began at The Restaurant School in New York. He has worked as a sous chef for James Beard Award winner Douglas Rodriguez at Alma de Cuba in Philadelphia and as Executive Sous Chef of Marcus Samuelsson’s Washington Square.

Outside the kitchen, Chef Isabella recently appeared on Season Six of Top Chef (Las Vegas), and he was the runner-up on Top Chef All-Stars.

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Mike Isabella's Crazy Good Italian: Big Flavors, Small Plates 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
Bravo TV's Top Chef fans will recognize the name Mike Isabella. On his first go-round on the show, he came off as kind of a jerk. He was asked to be a part of Top Chef All-Stars and to the surprise of some, he very nearly won it, finishing a close second to champion Richard Blais. (Even his detractors had come to admire his kitchen skills.) Isabella has a cookbook out, Mike Isabella's Crazy Good Italian, which celebrates his Italian heritage and has lots of wonderful memories of his grandmother, who gave Mike his love of cooking. What I like about this book is that many of the recipes are for small plates, which I enjoy. Some of the small plate recipes I want to try include: Deviled Eggs with Bacon Baked Ricotta with Scallion, Speck and Saba (which sounds fancy, but looks fairly easy. Speck is a cured ham and saba is a thick concentrated syrup made from sweetened grape juice. I did not know that.) Crispy Mushrooms with Sweet and Sour Apricot Sauce Isabella is Italian and Greek, and there are many recipes he has created that combine those two heritages, which he has in a chapter titled Family Secrets. Some of those recipes are: Aunt Connie's Pepper Rings Grandma Antoinette's & Mike's Favorite Gravy, which has a pig's foot as its special ingredient Meatballs, made with mortadella and mint There are lots of authentic Italian recipes here for serious cooks, ones that use ingredients such as octopus, calamari and squid. When I visited Rome this past February, there were many dishes with those ingredients and reading Isabella's book brought me right back there. Some of those recipes from the chapter Not Your Sunday Macaroni are: Baby Cuttlefish with Salt Crusted Potatoes & Pancetta Pesto Black Spaghetti with Clams, Pancetta, Red Chili & Squid Ink Pistachio Fettucine with Lamb Ragu, Feta & Mint The dish that came Isabella created for the Top Chef All-Star final challenge, his Pepperoni Sauce, is in this book. Gail Simmons from Food & amp;Wine Magazine went crazy for this dish, and here Isabella uses it over chicken wings. It's one of the most requested dishes at his Washington DC Graffiato restaurant, and I'm going to make this one for Sunday football for my guys. This is a link to the recipe and a video of Isabella making the dish on the Today Show this past week. There are gorgeous photos in this book, and at the end of the book there is a section called Menu Suggestions, where Isabella categorizes his recipes under Date Night, Entertaining, Family Night and Dinner Party Time. I liked that added touch. I met Isabella in June at the Book Expo, and snapped a photo of him. He handed out Rainbow Cookies along with a blad from his book and the recipe for the cookies. This is a cookbook for the more adventurous and serious cooks in my opinion. If you have someone on your Christmas gift list who fits that description, Mike Isabella's Crazy Good Italian would be a wonderful holiday present.