Friday, October 3, 2014

Cookbook Review: Downtown Italian

Title: Downtown Italian: Recipes Inspired by Italy, Created in New York's West Village

Authors: Joe Campanale, Gabriel Thompson, Katherine Thompson

Format: egalley

Pub. Date: October 7th 2014

Source: Netgalley & Andrews McMeel Publishing

Summary from Goodreads:

Three of the most inventive young restaurateurs in New York's vibrant East and West Villages present 100 contemporary Italian-inspired cocktails, antipasti, pastas, main courses and desserts—made approachable for the home cook.

Amid the cobblestoned streets and picturesque brownstones of New York's charming West Village, three dynamic young restaurateurs are creating some of the most inventive and delicious Italian-inspired cuisine in a city world-famous for its Italian food. Now the drinks and dishes that have inspired fanatical loyalty among customers of dell'anima, L'Artusi, L'Apicio and Anfora—including Charred Octopus with Chicories, Impromptu Tiramisu, and a sparking Roasted Orange Negroni Sbagliato—are accessible to home cooks in the first cookbook from executive chef Gabriel Thompson, pastry chef Katherine Thompson, and beverage director Joe Campanale.

Gabe Thompson's antipasti, pastas, main courses, and side dishes emphasize simplicity and deep flavor, using the freshest ingredients, creative seasonings, and the occasional unexpected twist---in such dishes as Sweet Corn Mezzaluna and Chicken al Diavolo. Katherine Thompson's desserts are both inspired and downright homey, running the gamut from a simple and sinful Bittersweet Chocolate Budino to the to-die-for Espresso-Rum Almond Cake with Caramel Sauce, Sea Salt Gelato, and Almond Brittle. And all are paired with thoughtfully chosen wines and ingenious Italian-inspired cocktails—Blame it on the Aperol, anyone?—by Joe Campanale, one of the most knowledgeable young sommeliers in New York City.


Three and a half stars.


This book has so much more than meets the eye. I was just expecting a typical Italian cookbook filled with pasta. Downtown Italian has so much more. The book is divided by course, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that one of the courses included drinks. I don't often come across cookbooks that include a cocktail section. It was a happy little bonus for me. Each recipe also comes with a hand selected wine or beer pairing, which is helpful for me. I have no shame in admitting I am useless when it comes to wine selections.

There's a wide variety of recipes included, for those who like meat and vegetarians alike. They also range widely in difficulty. Some of these recipes are super simple, and others have so many components and layers that even I'm a bit anxious to try them. Regardless of skill level, however, almost all of the recipes sounded delicious and like dishes I would order if I were out at an elegant Italian eatery. The dishes that I'm most excited to make include Roasted Pork Rack with Plums and Chorizo, Porcini-Rubbed Venison with Roasted Mushrooms and Walnuts, and Goat Cheese Mousse with Honey-Roasted Figs and Pine Nut Crisps.

I appreciated that the author included brand recommendations, but also realized that not everyone has access to those exact ingredients. He offered tips for substitutions, which is a nice touch.

The pictures that were included were beautiful, but for me there just wasn't enough. I'm very much the type of person who needs a picture of the end result to see just how well I did. I really wish this would have had more pictures of completed dishes instead of pictures of ingredients. There are a TON of recipes in this book, but it's a lot of text. That's not a bad thing for everyone, but for me it is an issue.

That issue aside, this is a solid Italian cookbook that I would recommend to more seasoned home cooks. Beginners might be a bit intimidated by the recipes in here. This is also good for anyone who loves Italian food, or who wants to impress people at their next dinner party or date (that may or may not be why I am using it!) Thanks to Netgalley & Andrews McMeel Publishing for my copy in exchange for my honest review.


  1. This sounds great, I really like that it has a drink section. I'd love to have this in our kitchen, I can't get enough of Italian food.