The Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink: An A-to-Z Guide with 2,300 Authentic Definitions and 50 Classic Recipes


Everybody does like Italian food. But did you ever wonder what goes into an authentic rag¨ alla bolognese? What's the difference between tagliatelle and fettuccine? Why won't you find pasta primavera or veal parmesan on menus in Italy? What makes a Super Tuscan wine "super"? How did Italian dishes like spaghetti alla puttanesca (in the style of a whore), strezzopretti (a pasta shape meaning priest stranglers), and minni di Sant'Agata ...
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Everybody does like Italian food. But did you ever wonder what goes into an authentic rag¨ alla bolognese? What's the difference between tagliatelle and fettuccine? Why won't you find pasta primavera or veal parmesan on menus in Italy? What makes a Super Tuscan wine "super"? How did Italian dishes like spaghetti alla puttanesca (in the style of a whore), strezzopretti (a pasta shape meaning priest stranglers), and minni di Sant'Agata (breast-shaped cookies in honor of a martyred saint) get their names?

The answers to these and thousands of other questions can be found in this comprehensive, user-friendly reference book. With the most up-to-date information on Italian culinary terms, The Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink is the reliable resource for authentic definitions, classic recipes, correct spellings, proper pronunciations, and historical origins.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
From the origins of gnocchi to a short history of restaurants in Italy, Mariani's latest book is a treasure trove of Italian culinary terms. Entries, ranging from a single sentence to several pages in length, are arranged alphabetically with a phonetic spelling of the Italian word to guide non-Italian speakers. When it comes to entries on specific dishes, Mariani (The Dictionary of American Food and Drink, LJ 2/15/94) tries to note enough regional variations on classic recipes so that the reader can sort them all out. While smaller libraries may be able to rely on a standard cooking reference source such as Larousse Gastronomique (Crown, 1998. reprint) to cover some of the same terms that Mariani's book does, there are some significant differences between the two, even when they cover the same item. For example, in the entry for pizza, Larousse Gastronomique offers about a half-page overview of the topic with two recipes, while Mariani's entry has no recipes but is almost three pages and provides details on the historical background of pizza as well as such things as a complete listing of the rules for a true Neapolitan pizza. Medium-sized and larger libraries, especially those with an interest in the culinary arts, will want to add this unique title to their collections.John Charles, Scottsdale P.L., AZ
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780767901291
  • Publisher: Broadway Books
  • Publication date: 6/28/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

John Mariani is the author of several culinary reference books including The Dictionary of American Food & Drink, which was named Best Reference Book of the Year (Library Journal) and America Eats Out (IACP/Julia Child Award).  He writes on food and drink for Esquire, Eating Well, Wine Spectator, Diversion, and many other magazines.
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Read an Excerpt


2 pounds dried cod, soaked for 24 hours in several changes of water
Salt and pepper
1 cup flour
1/4 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups tomato sauce

Trim and dry the cod and cut it into 2-inch pieces. Add salt and pepper to taste to the flour, then dredge the cod in the mixture, shaking off the excess. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the pieces of cod and cook for 5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Add the tomato sauce, correct the seasoning if necessary, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Serves 6.

baccellone (ba-cheh-LOH-neh) "Big pod." Soft ewe's milk cheese from around Livorno, usually eaten with fava beans.

baci (BAH-chee) "Kisses." Round chocolate-and-hazelnut candies created by the Perugina candy company of Umbria in 1922. Each one is wrapped in foil within which is a paper imprinted with a romantic saying or piece of poetry.

baci di dama (BAH-chee dee DAH-mah) "Lady's kisses." Chocolate-covered almond cookies, a specialty of Piedmont.

baggiano (bah-J'YAH-noh) Fava bean. Tuscans use the term baccello. Both words derive from baccello (bean). The word baggiana is also used for a beef stew with fava beans, artichokes, and peas, a specialty of Rimini in Emilia-Romagna.

bagna caôda (BAH-n'yah KOW-dah) "Hot bath." A Piedmontese sauce of garlic, olive oil, and anchovy. The sauce is kept over a flame and raw or cooked vegetables are dipped into it. When most of the sauce is used up, eggs are cookedin the remaining oil. Also bagna cauda.

Bagna caôda is a very old dish in Piedmont. Once considered poor people's food, it has become one of the most popular dishes of the region. Several other dishes in Piedmont take the word bagna, such as b. dell inferno and b. del diavolo, both made with tomatoes, oil, butter, milk, and anchovies, and served with polenta. B. brusca is a sauce or seasoning made from lemon, garlic, and anchovies, said to be brought to Modena and Ferrara during the Middle Ages by emigrating Jews. BagnÞt d'tomatiche or bagnèt ross is a tomato-based sauce served with the gran bui; if made with herbs, it is called bagnÞt verd.


6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
4 anchovy fillets, rinsed and mashed
1 white truffle, chopped

Combine the butter, olive oil, garlic, and anchovies in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and cook until well blended. Add the truffle, warm it through, and serve in a ramekin. Select raw or cooked vegetables like cardoons, celery, and artichoke hearts for dipping. Serves 6.

bagnomaria (BAH-n'yoh-mah-REE-yah) "Mary's bath." Double boiler. Used to cook ingredients in one pot by immersing it in another pot full of simmering water. Also used to keep foods, especially sauces, warm. The term is also used to refer to the technique.

The origin of the term is from alchemy and refers both to Moses's sister Mary, said to be an alchemist, and the Virgin Mary, whose virtue of gentleness is part of the cooking process.

bagnun (BAH-n'yoon) Fresh anchovies cooked in tomato sauce, from Liguria, a specialty of fishermen of the Gulf of Tigullio. The word may refer to bagno (bath) because the fish is cooked as in a bath.

bagoss (BAH-gohs) Hard, grainy grating cheese of Lombardy, made in the Alpine Valle di Sabbia around Brescia. Also bagozzo, gran bagozzo, and bresciano.

baicoli (bah-ee-KOH-lee) "Little jokes." Cookies flavored with orange and baked twice for crispness, traditionally dipped in wine, from the Veneto.

ballotte (bah-LOH-teh) "Little balls." Chestnuts boiled and flavored with fennel or bay leaves, eaten as a snack.

balsamella (bahl-sah-MEH-lah) Also besciamella. An Italian version of the French bé chamel, a thick white sauce made by stirring milk into butter and flour, to which other flavorings may be added.

The sauce is said to have been created in 1654 by French financier Louis de Béchamel (or Béchamiel), Lord Steward of the Royal Household of Louis XIV, although the town of Cesana in Emilia-Romagna claims the Italian version is named after Count Alessandro di Cagliostro, whose real name was Giuseppe Balsamo, born in the following century.

balsamico, aceto (ah-CHEH-toh bahl-SAH-mee-koh) Balsamic vinegar. A special condiment of Modena and Reggio Emilia made from the boiled-down grape must to one-half or one-third its original volume. This cooked must is known as saba; it is poured into barrels to ferment and to go through acetic oxidation. The liquid is then poured into a set of at least five barrels, called a batteria, made of different woods like juniper, oak, chestnut, ash, cherry, or mulberry, to age in attics called acetaia for several years after the "mother" forms on the top. Vinegars are replenished and topped off with new must each year. Some balsamico vinegars are aged a hundred years or longer.

Only five grape varieties may be used to make balsamico--trebbiano, lambrusco, occhio di gatto, spergola, and berzemino. Bottles of balsamico are submitted to the Consorteria dell'Aceto Balsamico for a DOC designation. Quality ranges from tradizionale to qualità superiore to riserva (which must be at least 12 years old) to the highest, extra vecchia (at least 25 years old). The very best vinegars are described as da bere (for drinking), although their cost makes more than a few drops prohibitive to drink; lesser varieties are referred to as da condire (for dressing). The Consorteria also stipulates that only about 8,000 bottles of 3.36 ounces each be offered for sale annually.

The name balsamico refers to the balsamlike aroma of the vinegars made around Modena for a thousand years, and unknown outside of that region until recently, and also to its balmlike effect. For centuries, balsamico was used primarily for medicinal purposes and as a sweetener. It was much prized and very expensive and was given as gifts among families, particularly among the nobility, who believed it could ward off plague. Mere drops would be used to add flavor to a sauce or to dress fruit. Only in the last decade has balsamico become a popular item in the kitchen--ironically, only after American entrepreneur Chuck Williams brought some from Modena for sale at his Williams-Sonoma kitchen specialty store in San Francisco in 1976; it was offered for sale in the store's national catalog a year later. Interest in the new product among Italian restaurateurs in the United States sparked an interest among cooks in Italy; balsamic vinegar has become as much a staple of American kitchens and restaurants as it is of those in Italy, France, Great Britain, and other countries. Balsamico is now used liberally in salads, on grilled meats and fish, and in ways wine vinegar might be. It is added in droplets to orange slices or strawberries.

Four types of balsamic vinegar are currently made in Italy: 1) the traditional vinegar made according to historic methods in Modena; 2) commercially produced vinegar in the style of Modena vinegars; 3) younger versions of Modena-style vinegar; and 4) imitation balsamic vinegar, primarily made in the south.

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