Book Club Tuesday: Felidia

Lidia Matticchio Bastianich is a powerhouse — successful restaurateur, best-selling author, acclaimed television host — all these things happen through hard work, dedication, and passion. I find her to be such an inspiration! When her latest book, Felidia, arrived for review I was excited because I am a big fan of her recipes (I find that she always offers recipes that are delicious and geared towards home cooking) and, I was keen to read all about Felidia — her New York restaurant which opened in 1981.

What keeps a restaurant in business for almost 4 decades? Certainly, it’s the food they serve (a regional Italian menu) but it’s also the atmosphere and dining experience they create. After reading through her introduction about those early years when they began to build the restaurant I learned that part of Felidia’s success is due to the many people who worked to get the restaurant going and to the inspiration Bastianich drew from her family and culinary roots.     

Though I’ve never had the opportunity to dine at Felidia, I feel as though reading through the memoir-like introduction and cooking through the book I think that Bastianich, along with her daughter, Tanya, long-time Executive Chef Fortunato Nicotra, and her amazing team have done an excellent job of translating the dining experience of the restaurant to something to be enjoyed in the comforts of your own home (no matter where in the world you live). This vicarious living through cookbooks is one of my favourite pastimes and since I won’t be in NYC any time soon, this cookbook allows me to savour the best of what Felidia has to offer. As a home cook, I really appreciate how the ingredients and recipes come together in very manageable and delicious ways. The recipe head notes give insight into the ingredients and, how the recipe relates to dishes served at Felidia.

The recipes are organized into 9 chapters: Cocktails, Breads: Focaccias, Crackers, & Spreads, Appetizers, Soups, Pastas & Primi, Seafood, Meat & Poultry, Sides, and Desserts. As I’ve cooked and glanced through the recipes, I notice that there are recipes to suit any level of home cook. The dishes I’ve gravitated towards are ones that I can make and serve on a weeknight but there are some that take a bit more time. Roasted cherry tomatoes are one of my family’s favourite things to eat and, when I saw the recipe for Tomato Almond Trapanese Pesto w/ Busiati I knew my family would really enjoy it. The pesto is made with oven-blistered tomatoes, along with EVOO, garlic, fresh basil, and roasted almonds. “Mom! This tastes like fancy restaurant food,” is what my daughter claimed on the first bite and, it is with a dish like this that the cookbook realizes its goal — have food that clearly and deliciously represents that NYC icon: Felidia.

When I first met my husband, I wanted to cook for him — my mom had shown us love through her home cooking and, this is what I wanted to do. When I asked him what he’d like me to make, his answer was “Lasagna!” I think lasagna always seems time consuming as well as labour-intensive and, it’s a dish that clearly makes people feel loved should they be the recipient of it. So, when I noticed the lasagna recipe in Felidia was comprised of sauce, cheese, and no-boil noodles I was very excited. To be able to serve one of my husband’s favourite dishes and not to have it take me too long to make was thrilling. The recipe begins with directions to make a delicious creamy tomato sauce and it ends with many mouth-watering layers of sauce, cheese, and noodles. I looked like a hero when I served generous slices to my family — it tastes like you’ve gone to so much trouble, the lasagna oozing with love, but in reality, it might be the easiest thing you can make!

Chef Nicotra’s Home-Style Lasagna, p.92

Felidia is a cookbook full of beautiful Italian recipes that have already found a way into my weekly meal rotation. There’s nothing more comforting (in my mind) than tucking into a luscious plate of pasta and sauce and, with this dreary winter we’re having here in Halifax I find that these are the kinds of recipes I’m looking for. With the permission of the publisher, I’m including the recipe for Chef Nicotra’s Home-Style Lasagna with my review. Since Valentine’s Day is around the corner, this is a recipe that’s sure to “wow” that special person (or people) in your life. I served mine with a side salad and garlic bread and with the promise to make it again!

Excerpted from Felidia by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich with Fortunato Nicotra and Tanya
Bastianich Manuali. Copyright © 2019 by Tutti a Tavola, LLC.
Published by Appetite by Random House, a division of Penguin Random House
Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
A dinner, thoroughly enjoyed!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Appetite by Random House for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

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