I've never been to San Francisco's acclaimed SPQR restaurant, but that hasn't stopped me from thoroughly enjoying Shelley Lindgren and Matthew Accarrino's cookbook. Indeed, the wine director and executive chef make it a point that this isn't a restaurant cookbook but rather a passeggiata, or stroll, through the ancient Roman roads of central and northern Italy. Along this photo-filled journey, readers discover each region's people and wines, along with gorgeous recipes that bridge the traditional and modern.
• Who wrote it: Shelley Lindgren and Matthew Accarrino with Kate Leahy, photography by Sara Remington
• Who published it: Ten Speed Press
• Number of recipes: 78
• Recipes for right now: Braised Oxtail in Cabbage Leaves with Cranberry Beans; Chestnut-Filled Pasta with Broccoli di Cicco, Guanciale, and Burnt-Orange Sauce; Mustard Spaetzle with Chanterelle Mushrooms and Stridoli; Pistachio Torta with Meyer Lemon Curd, Pistachio Crema, and Brown Butter; Squash Cappellacci with Medjool Dates, Rosemary Brown Butter, and Saba
• Other highlights: This is the kind of cookbook that seems equally appropriate on the coffee table, nightstand, or kitchen counter. I loved curling up with it and learning about the eight historical Roman roads and these regions' rich agricultural and culinary traditions.
The recipes convey a sense of the importance of technique as well as personal instinct. Many of the dishes seem quite elaborate and would be appropriate for nice dinner parties — yet the recipes aren't solely for special occasion cooking. I suggest reading through the whole book for inspiration, as there are many places where one could make part of a dish with less time or fewer ingredients and still have a wonderful meal.
On the wine side, the book is packed with essays and descriptions of different grapes and producers. It would make a fine guide for anyone planning to travel to Italy or simply heading to the local wine shop.
• Who would enjoy this book? lovers of Italian food, wine, and travel
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: SPQR: Modern Italian Food and Wine by Shelley Lindgren and Matthew Accarrino with Kate Leahy
• Visit the restaurant's website: SPQR
(Images: Emily Ho)