Italian “snacks”? Kitchen jewels within everyone’s reach

NEW YORK – Calling it a “book” is a diminutio. Just browse it quickly to realize it. “Italian Snacking”, the latest work by Anna Francese Gass, is not a simple “cookbook”: it is a work of art. Of course, cooking is an art in itself: but this new volume by the famous Italian-American culinary influencer goes beyond the classic “recipe book” and is – rather – the catalog of a museum of precious Italian culinary “jewels”: snacks. 

Delicious morsels, which have never been talked about enough, and which have now finally found their deserved place in an elegant and classy volume. “Sweet and Savory Recipes for Every Hour of the Day”, the subtitle of “Italian Snacking”, immediately clarifies what we are talking about: sweet and savory recipes for every hour of the day.

So author  Anna Francese Gass (in the pic above, with her book and some snacks) invites DIY chefs and cooks and all food lovers on a delicious journey through the heart of Italy, “exploring the rich tapestry of flavors that define the culture of the Italian snack”, as stated in the official presentation of the volume, which continues: “Combining simplicity and creativity, at its best, Italian cuisine charms us through a combination of the highest-quality ingredients, simple recipes tied to the specialties of each region, and the experience of being at the table. There is an entire category of delicious smaller bites in Italian cooking that few Americans know about—spuntini—meant to be enjoyed at in-between meal moments of the day…”.

And it is, in fact, a real journey through the Bel Paese the one proposed in Anna’s book: the author starts with an explanation of the term “snack” and delves into the various uses of the Italian snack throughout the day, from ” mid-morning snack” (spuntini di metà mattina) often enjoyed with a second or third coffee, up to the “merenda” (for children after school or for adults who have to “drive away hunger before dinner”) or the aperitif when the snack becomes plural, “spuntini” (snacks), and in Italian it rhymes with… “Martini”.

In the following pages, Anna embarks on a journey across the Peninsula, giving an overview of the various snacks, region by region. And then we get to the heart of the matter, with recipes for a vast range of Italian snacks, from classic bruschetta and arancini to unexpected delights such as Scarpaccia (a savory courgette pie), Pasticciotto Leccese, Baci di Alassio, Pizzicotti Abruzzesi and many others, up and down Italy, with dozens of recipes illustrated by splendid images taken by the photographer Linda Xiao, also author of the beautiful cover of the book. They all are images which, combined with those typical Italian “food” locations (markets, cafes, bars, pastry shops…) created with mastery by another photographer, Andrea Di Lorenzo, make the volume look – as we said at the beginning – more like a catalogue of art than a recipe book.

Recipes, moreover, were all obsessively tested by Anna herself who wanted to ensure that they can also work in American kitchens (the book, in English, is aimed above all at the American/Canadian public) with American ingredients and they also are – a not irrelevant detail – easy to follow: some examples can be found on Anna’s Instagram account (@annafgass). The book also includes a chapter on Italian street food delicacies: the only case, the author herself points out, when “Italians could eat on the move”.

For Anna, born in Italy and raised in the United States, Italian cuisine is something essential: she graduated from the French Culinary Institute and began her career in the Food52 test kitchen. Her first cookbook, “Heirloom Kitchen: Heritage Recipes and Family Stories from The Tables of Immigrant Women”, was a collection of family recipes published in 2019 and appeared on Good Morning America, Today and Rachael Ray.

Anna, also known for her ingenious interpretations of traditional Italian dishes, lives in New York where she regularly appears on Good Morning America and Access Hollywood and her recipes are New York Times Cooking Top Rated. In short, she’s a guarantee of an author for this book on Italian “snacks”, published by Union Square & Co. and easily available on Amazon. Below, the cover: doesn’t it look like a painting?