by Aurora Baccheschi Berti

Rizzoli, $35.00, 287 pages

If you are seriously into northern Italian cooking, this book is a must for you. It, in fact, will serve dual purposes: besides a cookbook, it is an excellent coffee table book with gorgeous, full-page professional photo illustrations on nearly every right-hand page.

The author is the owner and chef of an exclusive Tuscan hotel and these recipes, divided by seasons, are reproduced from the hotel kitchen’s collection. Stories and vignettes from the garden and surroundings introduce each season (e.g. Tuscan Eastern Traditions). The recipes are simple, well written, and easy to follow, even by a novice — but you better have a good Italian market available to find some of the ingredients. You will be scratching your head for items like Vialone Nano rice, violetto artichokes, pork caul, fresh cow or goat milk, and fresh wild fennel leaves. Notes below each recipe are helpful and informative. Some recipes appear to be too simple; almond biscotti only has five ingredients. Each seasonal collection proceeds from antipasto through dolce to pane.

The layout is excellent with recipes conveniently located on the left-hand page. Though from Italy, recipes are written for American cooks. The index is excellent and well cross referenced.

Reviewed by George Erdosh,