Holiday Feature


Little Italy Cookbook:
Back to the Old Neighborhood


Top-ranked french chef doffs toque to celebrate heart, soul and food of his roots in first cookbook and tv series.

Recipes to Sample:

Little Italy Cookbook

Little Italy Cookbook by David Ruggerio is a joyful celebration of the culture, food, festivities and traditions that are at the heart of the Italian-American experience. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Ruggerio offers up a spirited book as much about memories and heritage as recipes.

"This not about Italian cooking," the author tell us in his preface; "it is a book about Italian-American cooking. Many of the foods or the dishes in the book didn't even exist back in Italy, but every one bears the stamp of the Italian immigrant experience. This is the food I call Italian Soul Food." Ruggerio's cooking sensibilities were shaped by his grandmother, who taught him to cook with heart and passion, and by the community of family, friends and neighbors with whom he gathered around the table, as many as thirty at a time.

Served up with good cheer and stories are 150 recipes culled from different corners of Ruggerio's life; from family cookbooks, old friends, neighbors and local artisans. "I want you to meet the people, soak up the lore, and experience the love that goes into making this simple, frugal cuisine great," says the author. A few simple ingredients rearranged suddenly beckon "Mangia!"

Little Italy Cookbook opens with a chapter devoted to the cooking of Ruggerio's Nonna, his grandmother. Here he shares his favorite memories of childhood: Potato Frittata, Prosciutto Bread, and Bracciole and Parmesan Mashed Potatoes. Comfort food of the highest order.

A chapter named after Mulberry Street in lower Manhattan evokes the neighborhood's many restaurants, cafes and grocery stores, offering such classic dishes as Mozzarella in Carrozza, Caponata, Pasta e Fagiole and Pizza Margherita. Holiday cooking for Christmas and Easter, the most sacred holidays in Italian culture, is highlighted in La Festa. Ruggerio recalls the special dishes that signal the high holy days, as well as the celebrated festivals of the saints: Christmas Fish Stew and Baccala with Potatoes; traditional Roast Suckling- Lamb for Easter, plus Pizza Rustica and Pizza di Grano.

Seafood recipes like Brochettes of Octopus and Squid, and Spaghetti with Crabs, and Swordfish and Shellfish Stew hark back to the cooking in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. And, for Dolci, Ruggerio offers a variety of favorite Italian desserts, from the simple to the sumptuous: Almond Biscotti, Zabaglione, Amaretto-Chocolate Cheesecake and Pan Forte Sienna.

Ruggerio appropriately concludes Little Italy Cookbook with a chapter entitled Amici, a tribute to his great friends who are also great cooks. Who could resist Anna Nurse's Baked Smoked Ham, which has become an Italian-American Christmas tradition, Cousin Vinny's Linguine with Scallops, or Joey "Lips" Sausage and Ricotta Pie!

In addition to the wonderful recipes, the book features beautiful, mouthwatering full color photographs by Melanie Acevedo and illustrated features on the bakeries, pastry shops, and pizza restaurants unique to Little Italy. Little Italy Cookbook brings the sights, smells, food and spirit of Little Italy to life.

Little Italy Cookbook is also the companion volume to the 13-part Public Television series Little Italy with David Ruggerio.

About The Author

David Ruggerio is a three-time, three star chef in New York City. While his restaurants are French, his roots are strictly Italian. Born in Brooklyn, New York, he began his career in a small neighborhood Italian restaurant and went on to apprentice at a number of New York's finest restaurants, including La Caravelle. During this time he also boxed professionally. He then honed his skills under tutelage of some of the greatest chefs in France, including Michel Guerard, Roger Verge, and Paul Bocuse. He is currently chef/owner of Le Chantilly and operates the Maxim's complex, both in New York City.

Melanie Acevedo lives and works in New York City. She loves to cook, eat and photograph food, especially Italian.

Little Italy Cookbook
Author: David Ruggerio
Photographer: Melanie Acevedo
Publisher: Artisan, a division of Workman Publishing
Publication date: October, 1997
ISBN: 1-885183-54-2
Price: $29.95 Hardcover, jacketed
150 recipes, 232 pages. 90 color and black-and-white photographs

Information provided by the publisher.


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This page created 1997 and modified November 2006.