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Italy, one plate at a time

By Mike Peters | China Daily | Updated: 2016-07-05 08:30


Italy, one plate at a time

[Photo provided to China Daily]

A star Beijing chef brings the foods of his native land to Chinese readers in a luminous new cookbook, Mike Peters reports.

As an Italian master chef at a top restaurant in Beijing, Marino D'Antonio enjoys few things more than sharing his country's culinary culture with Chinese who love good food.

So when a publisher in his adopted country invited him to write a book for the Chinese audience, it took the executive chef at Opera Bombana about half a second to say yes.

"I didn't want to simply put together a collection of my recipes," says the North Italy native who was born into a family of restaurateurs. "I wanted to tell the whole story of Italy's many regions, and the different styles of food."

The result is Come to Discover Italian Food, in which his passion leaps from page after page of gorgeous photography by Antonio Chiesa. After the chef introduces his native city of Bergamo-also the hometown of his current mentor, Umberto Bombana-the first recipe features an image of creamy polenta and braised rabbit that's pure food porn.

But don't get the idea that this book is an artsy conceit: Its beauty lies in the painstaking care D'Antonio takes to make sure his reader can recreate each dish. The step-by-step photos of the chef's hand crafting pasta, for example, are as pleasing as Chiesa's artful images of the finished dishes.

"Italian food is simple food, really," he says. "It's about working with good ingredients that are fresh and seasonal where you live." You might guess that such dishes are not easy to re-create on the other side of the world, but while perfect ingredient matches may not always be possible, the chef notes that both countries lie in the northern hemisphere. Today there is not only good local produce, he says, but in major Chinese cities there are markets where items like polenta and fennel can be found.

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