Verdict: In CRAZY FOR ITALIAN FOOD, the comfort of each dish goes far beyond the plate. It actually warms the soul.
In this assortment of stories, Famularo takes us back to the west side of Manhattan during the World War II era. The strength and traditions of his close-knit Italian family are evident in his recollection of growing up in the city. While making a life for the family didn’t appear easy nor did they experience much excess in terms of luxuries, (in fact, Famularo describes the intricate/ circus-type balancing act his mom used to hang clean laundry from a line out the window to the preparation of homemade sausage that took days to complete), the determination of his family and other members of the Italian community to sustain their proud culture of contribution to community, generosity, hard work, and a genuine love and respect for food and each other (yes, in that order) thus solidified their integration as an indelible part of American culture.
Famularo’s book is arranged with each chapter beginning with a nostalgic personal story, followed by the supporting recipes. Since food is an integral part of the gathering of family and friends, the segue from family to food flows easily enough. However, many of the stories lack a compelling element that holds one’s interest. Also, the repetition of the family’s schedule makes for slightly redundant reading. One may desire to just skip the story and move to the recipe.
While most of the stories give sentimental meaning to the food, let’s face it, the Orange Ring Cake with Caramelized Oranges can easily stand on its own. In this book, it’s not about the prose, it’s about the pasta, and there are mounds of it from which to choose.
From Italian Meatballs to a Minestrone Soup recipe that could bring down the most stubborn of head colds, this book is packed with an array of tantalizing recipes. What is true with the author’s family rings true now, these dishes are meant to be shared with those you love (or, at least want to impress.) And at the heart of each one is a respect for quality and freshness in its ingredients with a dash of reverence for the dish it creates.
If you are feeling under the weather, recovering from a birth, or mourning the loss of family, you know you are being cared for when the dishes arrive at your front door. But if you are invited to learn how to cook—well, then, you know you are truly loved. For, in this tradition, food is family and family is food.
Famularo describes a welcoming, enviable childhood, where people looked out for one another, supported each other, shared and laughed and cried together while sitting around a pan of Lasagna and loaves of fresh bread.
In CRAZY FOR ITALIAN FOOD, the comfort of each dish goes far beyond the plate. It actually warms the soul.
Reviewed by J’Nel Wright for IndieReader.