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Food Guidebooks for Italy

Pauline Kenny

I like to travel with food guidebooks and food dictionaries. The food guidebooks are not only good for restaurant listings, but also point you to farms and stores where you can buy food products. Most also include good descriptions of the regional food.

You can also get good restaurant recommendations from your guide books (Cadogan and Dorling Kindersley have excellent listings).

Rome

Erica Firpo and Christel Brenting, Rome Little Black Book, Tram Eight Press, 2005

Food guidebook for Rome with over 100 restaurants, nightspots, pubs and caffes.

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Joe Wolff, Cafe Life Rome: A Guidebook to the Cafes and Bars of the Eternal City, photos by Roger Paperno, Interlink Books, 2002

This is the first book in a series about cafes in Italy. The second book is Cafe Life Florence. Cafe Life Venice is coming soon. These are excellent books, perfect to read at home before your trip to learn about cafes and what to expect, good to take with you for a handy list of cafes, bars, gelateria to visit.

Cafe Life Rome has photos (color and black and white) and detailed descriptions of the best caffes in Rome, by neighborhood. The author lists only family owned businesses, who produce quality products. The book describes cafes, bars, pastry shops, and gelato shops. There are also details about the food production, the history of the area and other good travel information.

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Time Out Rome - Eating & Drinking, Penguin USA, 2002

Good list of restaurants, pizza places, international restaurants, wine bars & pubs, and bars & caffes by region of Rome.

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Venice

Ruth Edenbaum, Shannon Essa, Chow Venice: Savoring the Food and Wine of La Serenissima, Wine Appreciation Guild, November 2006 (Second Edition)

This food guide for Venice was written by two of our SlowTalk members, Shannon and Ruth. They published their detailed restaurant lists first on SlowTrav, then they wrote their book in 2004. The second edition, revised and updated, came out in November 2006. This is a "must have" for any trip to Venice. In Venice you can eat very well, if you know where to go. This book tells you where to find the best restaurants and caffes.

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Florence

Joe Wolff, Cafe Life Florence: A Guidebook to The Cafes & Bars of the Renaissance Treasure, photos by Roger Paperno, Interlink Books, 2005

This is the second book in a series about cafes in Italy. The first book is Cafe Life Rome. Cafe Life Venice is coming soon. These are excellent books, perfect to read at home before your trip to learn about cafes and what to expect, good to take with you for a handy list of cafes, bars, gelateria to visit.

Cafe Life Florence has photos (color and black and white) and detailed descriptions of the best caffes in Florence, by neighborhood. The author lists only family owned businesses, who produce quality products. The book describes cafes, bars, pastry shops, and gelato shops. There are also details about the food production, the history of the area and other good travel information.

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Tuscany

Beth Elon, A Culinary Traveller in Tuscany, Little Bookroom, 2006

Part travel guide, part restaurant guide, part recipe book. If you want to know all about the food in Tuscany, this is the book for you. For each area in Tuscany, Beth Elon describes the things to see, the type of food, lists some favorite restaurants, and gives recipes. She has lived in Tuscany for more than 30 years.

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All of Italy

Maureen Fant, Trattorias of Rome, Florence, and Venice, The Ecco Press, 2001

A good description of restaurants in general and lists of trattorias for Rome, Florence and Venice. Maureen Fant writes travel articles about Italy and cowrote the Dictionary of Italian Cuisine with Howard M. Isaacs.

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Fred Plotkin, Italy for the Gourmet Traveler, Revised, Kyle Books, 2006 (available September 25, 2006)

His original book from 1996 (Little Brown & Co) has been updated. The original book was an excellent resource for all of Italy. I assume this revised version is even better.

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Michael McGarry, Gelato: Finding Italy's Best Gelaterias, Fancy Pants Press, 2004

Excellent book listing, by city, the best places for gelato in Italy. Maps for each city show the locations of all the gelateria reviewed. Good detailed descriptions and directions for finding each place. General information about gelato, glossary of terms and flavors, beautiful photos. The book is small enough to carry with you on a trip.

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Faith Heller Willinger, Eating in Italy: A traveler's guide to the hidden gastronomic pleasures of Northern Italy, Hearst Books, 1989

This is a very useful book with great information about food stores, markets and restaurants. She gives good information about how to order and what to order in restaurants. Some of her restaurant recommendations tend towards the gourmet, but many were excellent.

Even though it is over 10 years old, this book is still in print and is worth using. Many of the listings have not changed.

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Food Dictionaries

A good food dictionary is essential to figure out Italian menus. Even if you are fluent in Italian, an item like "Priest Stranglers" is confusing. Think of an Italian in an American restaurant seeing "Surf and Turf" on the menu. The larger dictionaries are good to keep at home as a reference. Bring a smaller one with you to restaurants. Steve always carries one in his pocket. It is also useful for stabilizing wobbling tables. Order from Amazon.

Maureen B. Fant and Howard M. Isaacs, Dictionary of Italian Cuisine, The Ecco Press, 1998

This is an excellent food dictionary. The descriptions are brief, but it contains more entries than any other dictionary we have seen. It is a hardcover book, which is not the easiest for carrying to restaurants with you, but it is a great reference. Howard Isaacs is a regular on the AOL Italy travel boards.

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John Mariani, The Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink, Broadway Books, 1998

The entries in this book are more detailed than in the Fant/Isaacs book, but there are fewer entries. It is also a larger book.

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Berlitz Italian Phrase Book, Berlitz Travel Guide, 2001

This is the book that Steve takes on every trip. He carries it in his pocket (it is 4" x 5.5") so he always has it with him to look up phrases or menu items. It has a detailed section on Italian foods.

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William E. Marling, Clare F. Marling, The Marling Menu-Master for Italy: A Comprehensive Manual for Translating the Italian Menu into American-English, Altarinda Books, 1971

This is another pocket-sized book (4" x 6"). It is organized by section of the meal and has a comprehensive list of foods.

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Bill Buford, Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany, Knopf, 2006

It is not a food guidebook and it is not all about Italy, but this is a good book to read if you are interested in restaurants and Italy. Bill Buford worked as an apprentice to Mario Batali, in his New York City restaurant Babbo. He writes about his experiences there, how Mario Batali learned to cook, and the history of Italian cooking. He goes to Italy to meet some of the great cooks and works as an apprentice with Dario Cecchini, the famous butcher in Panzano (Chianti). The book is very meat oriented, but even I (a vegetarian) loved every minute of it. I felt like I was right in the kitchen with him!

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Older Food Guidebooks - Out of Date

Carla Capalbo, The Food Lover's Companion to Tuscany, Chronicle Books, 2002

Good book about the wineries, bakeries, stores, farms, and restaurants in Tuscany. She lists them by region and gives a review of each one. This will help you decide which wineries and farms you want to visit. We have discovered some great farms where we bought olive oil in bulk and jars of preserved vegetables. We have found her restaurant recommendations to be good.

Sadly, some people on the message board report that this book is now out of date, some of the listings are no longer correct.

Resources

We have some great restaurant lists right here on Slow Travel.

Italy - Restaurant Reviews: Read our restaurant reviews for Italy grouped by region.

Italy - Restaurants: See our list of personal restaurant lists for Venice, Veneto, Tuscany, Umbria, etc.

Italy - Restaurant Resources: List of other websites with restaurant lists.

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