Gillian Riley is a food historian. She has written many books on food in art such as Renaissance Recipes and Impressionistic Picnics and is the author of A Feast for the Eyes, the National Gallery Cookbook. She lives in London. She is the winner of the 2009 Scritture d'Acqua award.
Widely praised by leading Italian chefs and including a foreword by Mario Batali, this A-to-Z guide to Italian food and culture includes more than 900 articles on everything from medieval cookbooks and Italian food in Renaissance painting to the latest cooking methods and regional delicacies. The content is engaging and appetizing and is equally enthralling whether discussing history or flavor, as it provides answers to questions great and small about all things Italian. The book is organized alphabetically, but its content is also accessible by subject, which include art and culture; baked goods; biographies; cheese and milk products; culinary terms; drinks and beverages; fish and seafood; fruits, vegetables, and nuts; herbs, spices, and condiments; history and society; meat and meat products; pasta and rice; prepared food and dishes; preparing, serving, and eating; regional cuisine; and sweets and confectionary. While photos are scattered throughout, more care could have been given to the book's visual presentation with the inclusion of additional images as well as sidebars, favorite recipes, and perhaps a color insert. Nevertheless, the book will delight readers and meets its goal of providing browsing pleasure. The author clearly shares her passion for food, having written many books on food and art, including Renaissance Recipes and A Feast for the Eyes. BOTTOM LINE The first in Oxford's new "Regional Food Companion" series, this title makes an excellent companion to Italian cookbooks such as Everyday Italian or Molto Italiano. Recommended for all libraries with specialties in Italian culture and cooking. [Available electronically through Oxford Digital Reference Shelf.]--Kathleen A. Welton, Chicago Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
"Italian Food shouldn't remain on the shelf; instead, it should be savored."--Chicago Tribune "Exhaustive."--Saveur Top Ten Reads "Italian food buffs on your list may welcome a mini-encyclopedia that turns out to be almost an anti-encyclopedia: Gillian Riley's determinedly personal, quirky, wide-ranging The Oxford Companion to Italian Food".--Anne Mendelson, The New York Times "Food historian and gastronome Gillian Riley's witty, expansive compendium deftly deconstructs everything from antipasto ("benign titillation of the palate with only a few delicacies") to zeppole ("overkill can be achieved with a filling of custard")."--Bon Appetit "A magisterial (recipe-less) book that anyone even mildly interested in the subject must own....encourages you to read entry after entry for the pleasure of learning marvelous oddments about the obscure and the familiar."--The Atlantic "[Riley is] a good, spunky writer who really knows what she's talking about...a master of the pithy observation."--Russ Parsons, The LA Times Blog "Erudite, witty, and stuffed with gems"--The Telegraph "She writes in [a] characteristically colloquial but never too casual tone, a lovely, rare style...laden...with humor, sly political commentary, and a general sense of the author's total immersion in and great passion for Italian cuisine and its connection to all other aspects of Italy."--Bookforum "A scholarly yet entertaining volume. Recommended for all culinary reference collections, but those who love Italy or Italian food will enjoy reading it for pleasure."--Booklist "A grand buffet of curious delights. Riley writes to entertain as well as to inform, and never holds back when there is a choice anecdote to relate....essential browsing for the serious Italo-foodlie."--John Dickie, The Guardian "Authoritative, erudite, and unexpectedly entertaining."--The Independent "For anyone who takes these styles of cooking seriously, these books are essential....First is Gillian Riley's The Oxford Companion to Italian Food, a fascinating encyclopedia of the Italian food world. Though it contains no recipes, it is a wonderful resource for understanding Italian recipes and how to cook them."--Associated Press "WORTH READING: [This] new book will do more than spruce up your coffee table...The Oxford Companion to Italian Food reads like a literary dictionary, with entries covering all aspects of Italian cuisine paired with striking illustrations."--La Cucina Italiana "Gillian Riley has assembled between the covers of this volume more useful information about the foods of Italy than is available in any other form, or in any other language, Italian included. Anyone with more than a passing interest in this seminal cuisine should be grateful to her, as I am."--Marcella Hazan "Erudite, engaging, and captivating: an indispensable guide for Italophiles, food lovers, and the greedily curious."--Nigella Lawson "A great tribute to a rich and complex culinary culture: the Italian. It contains all the essential information and more, from the earth to the table, within a historical, artisanal and cultural context. This is a must-have reference book for any serious lover of Italian food."--Lidia Bastianich