“No culture better understands simplicity and the magic of culinary understatement: only the Italians can manage to slice a few tomatoes, drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle them with sea salt and basil, and convince you to make a meal of it.”
-Patricia Wells, “Trattoria”
Patricia Wells could not have better summarized my love and fascination with Italian food any better than in the above-mentioned quote. The Italians are truly the masters of understated, beautiful cuisine… which also happens to be my favorite culinary style to cook (and eat).
In “Trattoria”, Wells scours the Italian countryside for recipes from small, family-owned restaurants called “trattorias” (perhaps from the French word traiteur, meaning “caterer”, or possibly from littarae tractoriae, the term for letters which in Latin times were carried by royalty and were given to messengers in exchange for food and board while traveling). Regardless of the origin, today’s trattoria is typically a several generation-old Italian restaurant featuring what Wells calls “a true family presence and a commitment to tradition.” I haven’t even seen a menu yet… but sign me up.
Wells’ cookbook offers unpretentious, delicious food, and the beauty of her dishes lies in the simplicity of ingredients and the perfectly melded flavors and textures. A dinner of individual Gorgonzola souffles, cubed pork with garlic, spinach and spicy chick peas, and a dessert of baked peaches with almond macaroons is a typical meal served up using “Trattoria”, and one of many examples of absolutely beautiful comfort foods that are meant to please any guest and make them feel at home.
I can’t rave enough about this cookbook. When my husband first introduced it to me, I had reached a point in my understanding and love of Italian cuisine where pizza, pasta, gnocchi, and risotto weren’t enough and my desire to cook authentic, home style Italian dishes had significantly increased. “Trattoria” came along at the right time to introduce me to user-friendly recipes for beautiful dishes… and as the “icing on the macaroon”, her helpful hints for cooking are quite useful.
I highly recommend this book for the amateur cook, the Italian cuisine lover, and any mother looking to cook beautiful meals for a family she loves. Thank you, Ms. Wells!
UPDATE: I received a very kind email from Mrs. Wells’ team thanking me for the article! You are most welcome! And thank you for making my day!!!!