Ciro and Sal’s Cookbook

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

While many cookbooks merely present a catalog of recipes, a restaurant cookbook such as this one yields the additional pleasure of placing the cuisine in the context of the lives of its creators, the people who built a successful business from a dream based on the fine food of their cultural heritage.

The introduction provides an enjoyable capsule history of the restaurant. Bronx-born Ciro, fresh out of the army, and Sal, an art student from Rhode Island, met in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in the summer of 1947. A dirt cellar and an old stove found at the town dump figured in the humble beginnings of their joint enterprise, which soon became widely known for its hearty, authentic Italian food served at modest prices in a homey atmosphere. Through the years many artists and celebrities have frequented the restaurant, including Andy Warhol, Robert Motherwell, and Norman Mailer. Old snapshots of customers celebrating and of Ciro and Sal’s baseball team capture the exuberance of the early days.

The recipes themselves are delectable; many are also fairly simple to prepare and require ordinary ingredients. Several spaghetti dishes elevate this common pasta to new heights, including Spaghetti with Fresh Basil and Parsley, Spaghetti with Butter and Cheeses, and Spaghetti with Nuts, Raisins, and Anchovies. While there are more than a dozen veal dishes that call for a fair expenditure, most of the recipes’ ingredients are reasonably priced. A chapter each is devoted to appetizers, soups, pasta, rice and polenta, fish, chicken, meat, eggs, vegetables, salads, bread, and desserts, as well as the ubiquitous pizza, which here insists upon a garnish of anchovies. All chapter and recipe titles are given in Italian, adding to the feel of authenticity. Gardeners with rampant zucchini crops will enjoy Zucchini with Eggs and Cheese, and the adventurous can try the Pasta Omelet or the Spinach Lasagne with Four Cheeses.

Many chapters begin with anecdotes, one extolling the virtues of fresh basil, another recalling a ravenous customer who actually ate the check. A detailed glossary of ingredients, an education in itself, concludes the volume. This is a marvelous cookbook, comprehensive in its coverage of Italian cuisine, with creative and intriguing recipes from a true master chef.