Al Dente

A History of Food in Italy

Fabio Parasecoli

Al Dente

Fabio Parasecoli

Distributed for Reaktion Books

332 pages | 20 color plates, 80 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2014
Cloth $39.00 ISBN: 9781780232768 Published May 2014 For sale in North and South America only
Spaghetti with meatballs, fettuccine alfredo, margherita pizzas, ricotta and parmesan cheeses—we have Italy to thank for some of our favorite comfort foods. Home to a dazzling array of wines, cheese, breads, vegetables, and salamis, Italy has become a mecca for foodies who flock to its pizzerias, gelateries, and family-style and Michelin-starred restaurants. Taking readers across the country’s regions and beyond in the first book in Reaktion’s new Foods and Nations series, Al Dente explores our obsession with Italian food and how the country’s cuisine became what it is today.
Fabio Parasecoli discovers that for centuries, southern Mediterranean countries such as Italy fought against food scarcity, wars, invasions, and an unfavorable agricultural environment. Lacking in meat and dairy, Italy developed foodways that depended on grains, legumes, and vegetables until a stronger economy in the late 1950s allowed the majority of Italians to afford a more diverse diet. Parasecoli elucidates how the last half century has seen new packaging, conservation techniques, industrial mass production, and more sophisticated systems of transportation and distribution, bringing about profound changes in how the country’s population thought about food. He also reveals that much of Italy’s culinary reputation hinged on the world’s discovery of it as a healthy eating model, which has led to the prevalence of high-end Italian restaurants in major cities around the globe.
Including historical recipes for delicious Italian dishes to enjoy alongside a glass of crisp Chianti, Al Dente is a fascinating survey of this country’s cuisine that sheds new light on why we should always leave the gun and take the cannoli.

Introduction: The Food of Italy: Beyond Myths and Stereotypes

1. A Land in the Mediterranean

2. Invaders

3. Rebirth

4. Fragmentation and Unification

5. From War to Miracle

6. Now and the Future

7. The Globalization of Italian Food

8. A Nation of Town and Regions: Italian Campanilismo


Select Bibliography


Photo Acknowledgements


Review Quotes
Italia Magazine
“In this fascinating guide, Parasecoli takes us through the history of Italy’s relationship with food, right back to the Romans, discussing the origins of olive oil and the importance of sun-ripened tomatoes. . . . The stories that are interwoven into the pages are essential reads for any budding connoisseur or general foodie.” 
Gillian Riley, author of The Oxford Companion to Italian Food
“This cool analysis of the geopolitical background to the delights of Italian gastronomy is a welcome addition.”  
“This ambitious volume places discussions of food and food-related customs in the context of Italian history from the Neolithic to the present. Parasecoli leads readers on an engaging journey through time and geography. The author peppers the account with anecdotes and historical tidbits ranging from whether or not there was food scarcity during the Middle Ages to how changes in female empowerment have caused adjustments in portion sizes in the twenty-first century.”
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