Il Viaggio di Vetri: A Culinary Journey, by Marc Vetri
I have not been this excited about a new cookbook in quite awhile. I was at the bookstore and noticed Marc Vetri’s new cookbook, Il Viaggio di Vetri, A Culinary Journey. I know of Chef Vetri through the reputation of his two very successful and popular restaurants here in Philadelphia, Vetri and Osteria.
For the past two years, I have had the opportunity to attend charity events for Alex’s Lemonade Stand, organized by Chef Vetri and hosted at Osteria. I have written about the event in past blogs, and it is always an incredible evening.
Chef Vetri invites his chef friends from around the country to each prepare a dish for the attendees to sample. You get the opportunity to try the most amazing food and speak with the chefs who have created the dishes. This year, I even had the opportunity to meet Chase Utley, the shortstop for the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. Next year I hope to meet Chef Vetri, tell him how much his cookbook inspires me and see if he will do a Novice2Pro interview.
Chef Vetri has been named one of the top 10 new chefs in the United States by the editors of Food and Wine, and his first restaurant, Vetri, was selected as one of the top 50 restaurants in the country by Gourmet Magazine in 2006. Alan Richman wrote in a 2005 issue of Bon Appetit that Vetri is “probably the best Italian restaurant in America.”
What caught my eye was the size and cover of Il Viaggio. It has a photograph of Chef Vetri in his whites with a bunch of other chefs. Everyone is smiling as if someone is telling a funny story. When you open the book, before you read one word of copy, you can’t help but notice the incredible photography.
In the front of the book and spread throughout are photos of different chefs who have influenced Chef Vetri. You can see just from the pictures the bonds that were created while he was in Bergamo, Italy honing his craft. When it comes to the recipes, the photographs look so good you want to stick a fork in them. But, while beautiful enough for a coffee table book, Il Viaggio di Vetri is meant to be used.
Most of the time when I pick up a cookbook, I immediately go to the recipes and look through them for something I might want to cook. When I picked up this cookbook, I immediately went to the introduction and read the first paragraph. When Chef Vetri writes about food perception and how it affects what we think about a meal, I was hooked. I started reading the Wine Notes by Jeff Benjamin and then the short biographies of the other chefs who influenced Marc.
I then checked out the recipes and realized these are the types of recipes I want to learn how to make. I love Italian cooking, and this book includes incredible recipes for appetizers, pastas, risotto, seafood, meats, poultry, game and desserts. Although many of the ingredients, including Chef Vetri’s use of organ meats, may be new to you, he typically offers alternatives for those hard-to-find items.
What really impressed me about these recipes is their simplicity and elegance. Simple ingredients combined in spectacular ways through cooking methods that Chef Vetri takes the time to teach is a hallmark of Il Viaggio di Vetri. Each recipe offers detailed, step-by-step instructions learned during the chef’s training in Italy.
I said to my wife when I was showing her this cookbook, “I would like to work my way through this book and make every recipe from cover to cover.” I imagine if I did, my cooking skills would vastly improve.
My First Attempt
When I got the book home, I made an adapted version of his pork rib and cabbage stew recipe. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever prepared, and I will post it later this week. It was one of those comfort foods that are perfect on a cold weekend night with a glass of red wine. I could see serving this dish at a dinner party for a group of friends.
I can’t wait to try his Pecorino Crusted Lamb with Peas and Mint or Grilled Rib Eye Steak with Heirloom Tomato Salad or Grilled Chicken with Crispy Potatoes and Braised Escarole.
Each recipe offers a little story or history about the recipe, and suggestions for improvisation and wine pairings. Because many of the ingredients may be a little difficult to find, the “improv” is very helpful. If you can’t find squab, try guinea hens or even chicken.
This is a cookbook that you can really learn from. Whether you follow the recipe exactly as it is written or adapt it to the ingredients available to you, by following Chef Vetri’s techniques, you can learn a lot about how to cook. I highly recommend you check out Il Viaggio di Vetri as soon as possible. It will make a great gift this holiday season for any of your favorite cooking fans.
For more of my favorite cookbooks.