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Distributed for Reaktion Books

Al Dente

A History of Food in Italy

Distributed for Reaktion Books

Al Dente

A History of Food in Italy

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.

332 pages | 20 color plates, 80 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2014

Foods and Nations

Food and Gastronomy

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“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.” 

Italia Magazine

“This cool analysis of the geopolitical background to the delights of Italian gastronomy is a welcome addition.”  

Gillian Riley, author of The Oxford Companion to Italian Food

“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.”


“Parasecoli clearly loves food, and he thoughtfully tackles some of the big questions about Italian food: Why is there such enormous variety in Italian foods like pasta, wine, and cheeses? What is the historical relationship between Italy and the rest of the Mediterranean region when it comes to characteristic ingredients and dishes? What myths and stereotypes about Italian food have been perpetuated by non-Italians, and what cultural purposes do these myths serve?”

Italian American Review

Table of Contents

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


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