Published in 1993, this was one of Michele Scicolone’s first cookbooks. If you go to Amazon, the prices for copies now vary widely for this paperback: 8 used from $4.30, 4 new from various sites at $79.95 and Amazon’s own copy for a mere $150.79.
I suggest you get your copy now. Not just for the economics. But for the recipes, the powerful set of authentic and most charming recipes. Italian desserts form a complex array of cookies, cakes, tarts, fruit, spoon desserts, ice creams, ices and sorbets, and frozen mousses. Not to mention the sauces and cheeses that can accompany them.
Now, that list of dessert ideas just happens to be the list of chapters here. There is that emphasis on light and cold. Northern Italy can be frigid in the winter, it can snow in Rome, but Italians love an elegant chill in their meal finales.
There are 170 recipes in the book. Here’s a baker dozen taken from across all the chapters:
Anise Walnut Biscotti
Chocolate Spice Rings [a cookie]
Upside-Down Peach Poppy Seed Cake Glazed with Apricot Jam
Chocolate Grappa Cake
Lemon and Chocolate Cream Tart [not your usual combination]
Glazed Nectarines with Blackberries
Warm Berries in Cinnamon Ice Cream [blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries]
Zabaglione with Balsamic Vinegar and Raspberries
Fig Ice Cream
Jasmine Tea Granita
Peach and Prosecco Sorbet
Coconut Semifreddo with Burnt Orange Sauce
Mascarpone Custard Sauce
There is temptation there in that list, you must admit. Surely, there is something that has you tugging to get the recipe. I enjoy the Italian tradition and talent for layering flavors. I like lemon cream pie and chocolate cream pie, but both? Together?
A coconut semifreddo sounds full of flavor. Adorning it with orange sauce? And burnt orange at that?
Italian food may be easy, in the sense that the ingredients are few and basic. But the glory is in the articulate way “simple” becomes so very satisfying. The complexity of layered flavors is endlessly rewarding.
La Dolce Vita has surprises and pleasure from beginning to end. A full 40% of the book is spent on those first three chapters: cookies, cakes and torts. You’ll find yourself entrenched in those chapters when you first open the book. But you should venture around for some of the frozen treats and the sauce. This book is sweet, charming, and endlessly satisfying. It is, by the way, a classic Italian dessert cookbook.
My favorite recipe? There are two, two cookies: Juliet’s Kisses and Romeo’s Kisses. Yes, I’m posting them right now.