A bottle of a red, a bottle of white and 100 Italian recipes you can make right in your own kitchen. All you need is the recently released book, Downtown Italian: Recipes Inspired by Italy, Created in New York’s West Village (Andrews McMeel Publishing). The book is compiled by three chefs ~ friends and New York City restaurateurs ~ each bringing his/her own expertise to the table (pun intended). Joe Campanale (beverage director), Gabriel Thompson (executive chef) and Katherine Thompson (pastry chef) share their favorite authentic Italian recipes with a New York twist.

Downtown Italian is not your typical Italian cookbook. From start to finish ~ or apertivi to digestivi and all the courses in between ~ the chefs, and debut authors, provide creative recipes for all palettes, including vegetarian. The book is broken down into courses, including drinks for pre- and post-dinner, making it easy to find recipes for a specific mealtime.

BOOKDowtownItalianChef Gabriel Thompson puts his own stamp on many of the quintessential Italian recipes. Linguini and clams with chorizo and chili? Not exactly a traditional Italian dish (it’s usually made with bacon). However, he likes to serve it with Spanish chorizo (not Mexican, be careful when shopping!), which gives a smokiness to the briny clams. Beverage expert Joe Campanale suggests pairing it with a German-style ale ~ not very Italian, but it works well with the spiciness of the chilies.

Speaking of Campanale, he provides wine (or beer) suggestions that accompany every recipe. As previously mentioned, Campanale has his own chapter of unique drinks, including offerings like the Dirty Spicy Martini (add a hot pepper with the olives) and the Blueberry Bourbon Smash (a drink that originated at an event hosted by his friend Rachel Ray). The Basil Mojito, which he considers a drink synonymous with New York summers, is “Italianized” with the addition of basil.

If you’ve saved room for dessert, Katherine Thompson has you covered. Like her husband, Gabe, she also adds her own twist to recipes. For example, her Impromptu Tiramisu, made with chocolate wafers (she recommends store-bought ladyfingers and wafers!), looks much different than what you’d order at an Italian café.

The best part of the book ~ other than its classic lines, which look great on any bookshelf ~ is that most of the recipes are accessible. I tend to shy away from complicated recipes with too many steps or ingredients, but most of these seem very manageable. Sometimes cooking can be a stressful mess, but the authors make it seem like it can be an enjoyable experience.

Whether you’re a culinary enthusiast or a lover of Italian food and drink, just reading this recipe book transports you to scenes from one of their Italian restaurants. All you need is that bottle of red (or white).

Downtown Italian is available at Amazon and other book retailers.

 By Kim Dunbar