In the World Cup of cuisine, an Italy versus England tie pits the style of one against the slog and stodge of the other. Tony & Giorgio is the programme for the fixture and in this colourful and breezily clear cookbook accompanying the BBC series, restaurateur Tony Allan and chef Giorgio Locatelli--perhaps the biggest kitchen double act since Fanny and Johnny Craddock--create a dynamic addition to your kitchen bookshelf from their differing opinions, national cuisines and culinary cultures.
Like other successful cookbook writers, Tony and Giorgio (already starting off on a first name basis) wax nostalgic about food heritage and are passionate about local produce, such as fish and game--the latter illustrated by some savoury recipes including roast grouse with porridge risotto and stuffed pigeon with lentils. The heart of the book pitches the star players of one national favourite against one another--steak and kidney pudding versus pappardelle with chicken livers, sage and black truffle, salt beef with carrots and mustard dumplings versus rabbit with Parma ham and polenta, and bread-and-butter pudding versus lemon tart. Italy seems to have the edge, but Tony & Giorgio shows why Italian food has been so successful in Britain, for it may well be the mother of comfort food--pasta and pizza, soups and stews, tarts, terrines and puddings to sweeten the sourest of days in the British climate. Further chapters cover fish, everyday food, hunting and gathering, eating alfresco, cooking for kids, feeding friends, leftovers ("among the great glories of the kitchen"), as well as basics. Most of the recipes will suit anyone with a decent grip on the rules of the game, from spaghetti with anchovy and tuna to a more dramatic whole sea bass roasted in a salt and herb crust. And it is all truly glorious grub, demonstrating a wonderful marriage of textures and flavours, for instance, the crisp and melting saltiness of slow-roasted belly pork cut through with the sweet acidity of apple sauce and baked cabbage.
This is a book that improves the more you use it. What may have seemed like a fixture heavily balanced in favour of Italy actually reveals some more cosy relationships--Scotch eggs nestle up to marinated sardines, tiramisu becomes a drinking buddy of sherry trifle--as well as some national pride, as the finest British produce more than holds its own--stilton and wild Scottish salmon, for example. Perhaps the only slightly forced note comes from the insistence on naming all dishes in English and Italian-—it maintains editorial consistency to be sure, but proves that some phrases really do sound better in English. Better the gritty determination of fish and chips with mushy peas over the fancy footwork of pesce frito, patatine e pure di piselli. --Fiona Buckland