Italian Moms: Spreading Their Art to Every Table
Elisa Constantini, compiled by Frank Constantini
Sterling Epicure, 2017
After her husband of 55 years passed away from cancer in late 2013, Elisa Constantini fell into a deep depression. She had moved to America in 1961 from Abruzzo, Italy to be with Francesco, and they had been together for decades. Now he was gone. To get her mind off her grief, Elisa’s son Frank suggested that she start compiling all of her best recipes and that they’d make a book. Just for family and friends. A Kickstarter with an original goal of $8,000 ended up raising over $27,000, and the Constantinis were approached by a printer, a book marketer, and a resort in Tuscany that offered Elisa a gig teaching cooking classes. By the time they were done Elisa had appeared on Rachel Ray and The Today Show, as well a number of local news shows, and the book was picked up by a professional publisher. Elisa has a second book on the way for 2018.
If Elisa’s story is is what attracts readers to her book, it’s her recipes that will win your heart. This is the food that the grandmother cooks for her family and friends, recipes tweaked and perfected over five decades, influenced by the cooking of Abruzzo, with plenty of fish and lamb dishes.
These are beautiful southern Italian dishes, cooked and finished with olive oil, simply prepared to focus on the freshness and flavour of the ingredients, from side dishes like sauteed rapini, to lamb cooked on skewers. Also timbalo, canneloni and an Abruzzo-specific pasta called scrippelle, which is rolled up like a scroll. Elisa is also known for her meatballs and her Seven Fishes stew.
This collection is an excellent cross-section of non-pretentious Italian-American cookery, ranging from antipasti to roast meats and pastas, to an array of desserts. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a straightforward Italian cookbook.
An added bonus to Elisa’s story — besides being a way to help with her mourning, the book was also intended to raise funds to help with the bills from her husband’s cancer. The Constantinis are now able to offer 50% of the proceeds from the sale of Elisa’s books to various charitable organizations and have already helped a number of worthy charities.
Usability: Very good. Pages are busy and bright with plenty of images of Elisa and her dishes. Fonts are clear and easy to read; ingredients are in bulleted lists and directions are separated with line breaks. The are no headnotes, but instead essays and stories throughout the book, with occasional quotes from Elisa on pages where space is available. No metric measurements.