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OP: Italian Cook Book

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by Maria Gentile

Italian Book Co., 1919. Hardcover, rebacked. Very Good Plus. 

One of the first Italian cookbooks published in the United States, Maria Gentile’s Italian Cook Book (1919) served the wave of Italian immigrants, motivated by political unrest and rural economic poverty, who settled here in the early 20th century. 

Embracing the lean years following WWI, Gentile here presents the economical dishes of the “cucina casalinga,” or the home cook. Named in both English and Italian, we find:

  • Pomodori ripieni, baked tomatoes stuffed with finely chopped mushrooms, grated cheese, and aromatics
  • Trota all’alpigiana (Alpine trout), a favorite dish of Piedmont, braised in white wine with cloves, onion, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and butter
  • Pollo al diavolo, piquante chicken, spatchcocked and grilled—basted with oil or butter seasoned with cayenne pepper—and topped with a gravy of onion, capers, pickles, and tarragon vinegar
  • Cotognata, which is translated as quince cake but is rather what we would call a quince paste

The recipes are written in prose and rarely give measurements or temperatures; however, Gentile’s thorough and clear descriptiveness inspires confidence in execution. Approachable even 100+ years later.

We’ve had our copy rebacked to secure the binding. The book block is in Near Fine condition, totally clean and unmarked save for the stamp of B. F. Halliday, Inc. to the full title page. An excellent addition to an Italian American or immigrant collection.

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