Book review by Franz Scheurer
It took a long time for Armando Percuoco to release another cookbook and the first thing that I noticed is how incredibly generous Percuoco has been with giving away some recipes that I never expected to see in a book. Co-written by David Dale, a wordsmith of note, the book highlights the achievable fare cooked at home, animates for families to come together and eat together, share and be part of a life that is fast vanishing in favour or time-poor food on the run. Buon Ricordo means ‘fond memories’ and it is also the name of Armando Percuoco’s restaurant in Sydney and an apt title for the book. The book is beautifully put together; it’s sunny and bright, full of excellent and informative photography (by Greg Elms) and not only a joy to read but also a useful companion in the kitchen.
The book is subdivided into
Traditions and twists
and the Restaurant rules, followed by an index and acknowledgements
Percuoco talks about the core elements of his native Naples cuisine, olive oil, tomatoes, onions and garlic, herbs, salad, vegetables, figs, pasta, polenta, stock and cheese. He talks about the basic equipment needed and stresses that food has to be fun. I love the apparent simplicity of flavours in dishes like the Calzone (page 41) and the Fiori fritti (fried zucchini flowers – page 44). His zucchini flowers are the best non-stuffed zucchini flowers in Sydney and although a plethora of chefs have tried to imitate them (and some have worked in Buon Ricordo’s kitchen) no one has been able to duplicate them. I don’t know a single kid (young or old) that doesn’t like peas and his Paste e piselli (Pasta and peas – page 56) is one of the most satisfying dishes out there. His instructions how to make a good Ragú are concise and informative (page 66). Percuoco is a man who knows what crudo is and how to present it and his Crudo di pesce spada (page 87) is proof that there is a reason that Armando Percuoco started CIRA, the Council of Italian Restaurants of Australia. I had his Fichi biondi (Baked figs with Gorgonzola sauce – page 129) and it’s sublime and the Timballo (page 143) must be one of the best dishes he serves in his restaurant. If you have a sweet tooth then you must try the Mille mele (baked apple tart – page 161), it’s sweet and tart and very moreish.
To quote Armando Percuoco: “A restaurant is a family and the happiest of families are those who cook and eat together. There’s a long tradition in the restaurant industry of antagonism between the kitchen and front of house and I find eating together breaks this down and builds up unity, usually amid lots of laughter. Every afternoon around 5 pm all of us who work in Buon Ricordo set a big table and sit down for a meal – there can be as many as 21 of us. Here my cooks share with you some of the meals that have delighted our 21 or so discerning palates and greedy stomachs. You might like to use them when you are entertaining a big group in an informal setting”. The above describes the section The Restaurant rules and I love the sound of ‘Rosalba’s Sicilian fish’ (page 221).
This is a fabulous book with achievable recipes, telling a story, which is important for all of us: You don’t go to war with people you shared a table with.
Allen & Unwin
ISBN 978 1 74175 727 9