Jamie's Italy is a good cookbook in many regards, and I like it a lot. But before I give it the accolades that it deserves, I first have to say what I didn't like about it, and this is sort of a sweeping judgment because it's not specifically about this book but more so about celebrity chef-written books in general. The problem that I have is enduring the usually hokey and pseudo-spontaneous (i.e., most likely staged) photos of the chef that occur far too frequently throughout the book. Case in point: before arriving at page 1 in Jamie's Italy you'll have to tolerate Jamie eating pasta with his foot and beer glass perched casually atop the rear of a stylish Fiat, Jamie with notebook in hand staring smugly into the camera outside what looks to be a back alley food stall, Jamie sipping liqueur with a woman and her dog outside, Jamie outside his retro Volkswagen van in the Italian countryside, and Jamie looking really cool eating pizza out of a paper wrapper while leaning against a wall. It wouldn't bother me so much, I guess, if they were instructional photos showing him preparing some of the recipes, but most are not. They are there, apparently, just so we can get a good look at Jamie.
Now that this is off my chest, I'll move on with the better stuff. The photographs are credited to David Loftus and Chris Terry, and in regards to the photos of the food they can be summed up in a word as spectacular they will without doubt make your mouth water. And photos that include people really capture the character of the scene.
Chapters are divided somewhat traditionally in a progressive manner. The one that I particularly found interesting was the chapter on Street Food and Pizza. There are some great ideas for unique and traditional pizza recipes (including photos of each) that can easily be reproduced in the home kitchen. And many of the recipes are ones you'll not likely find in other cookbooks, such as the recipe for â€œthe best tuna meatballs (pg. 203)â€ which was delicious, or the recipe for Fried Ricotta with a little Tomato Salad (pg. 12).
There's a lot of non-recipe text in this book, which makes it an interesting read as well as a utilitarian book. The recipes themselves are written in the same conversational way as the text. While some may find this problematic, or even annoying, I personally find it a breath of fresh air from the often choppy, abbreviated, and textbook-style writing that is found in many cookbooks. Jamie credits the late Elizabeth David (among others) for instilling in him his love of Italian food. She apparently instilled his love of her writing style as well, albeit a slightly more modern form.
The recipes that I tried were easy to fallow and turned out as delicious as they were described and pictured. Jamie's Italy is a welcome addition to my cookbook library. His countless portraits seem to bother me less and less the more I leaf through it, and he does genuinely look like he's have a great time.