By Sean Melrose.
"These days I have come to appreciate that La Dolce Vita is
a way of life you can aspire to wherever in the world you may be, whatever the
weather.” ~ Silvia Colloca.
It seems everyone in their own way is searching for La Dolce
Vita and according to Silvia Colloca, that even includes the people of Italy. In
her latest contribution, zest for life and cheerful charisma leap from the
pages through bright colours, photos overflowing with lavish dishes and warm, welcoming
There is a ‘let me show you it’s easy’ style, that extends
from the accessible recipes to the Italian way of life and how to get there by
"embracing life’s sheer beauty” and "celebrating every moment.”
On perusing a recipe, there is a continuous feeling of ease
that persists, as if Silvia were explaining the recipe directly from her
kitchen bench, glass of Campari in hand. Pictures show plastic cups of
different hues, the speckled tops of portable tables and chinaware of the hardy
caravan variety, planting the atmosphere Silvia talks about of "three
generation families sitting around long tables draped with red and white
tablecloths sharing an abundance of food, laughter and love.”
The best insight into the person behind the actress, opera
singer, author, blogger and Chef, comes from the chapter introductions that
divide the book: drinks and nibbles, light lunches and it’s not really a party
unless there’s dessert! Just to name a few. There are stories about living in
Milan and the aperitivo atmosphere, of childhood memories from the Abruzzo
countryside and life as an Australian Mum.
Mentioned in the beginning and embodied throughout, is a
championing of the healthy side of Italian cuisine and the merits of the
Mediterranean diet. Silvia puzzles over the notion that Italian food is a cuisine
to be enjoyed occasionally and sparingly, contending that the Mediterranean
diet is an elixir with olive oil instead of animal fat, plenty of fibre, fruit,
greens, legumes, seafood, cereal and a little dairy from time to time, coupled
with careful amounts of wine and meat.
Recipes vary from the traditional Italian to the nutritious
and even the seductive, with different degrees of difficulty too, there are
show stoppers as well as more accessible dishes like the zucchini, mint and
turkey polpettine skewers (p 114), for instance. La Dolce Vita is also packed
full of options that cater for a host of dietary requirements, egg free, gluten
free, Pescatarian, Vegan and Vegetarian dishes are all neatly categorised at
the back. Still, there is no lack of sweet options, like the Italian sponge
cake with balsamic roasted strawberries (p 138).
"Even when we are in the mood to celebrate, it is easy to
create nutritious dishes to mix up with the opulent ones; after all, we all
need the occasional touch of naughty.” ~ Silvia Colloca.
There are dishes that come right from the heart of Silvia’s
identity as a food writer, steeped in family history and tradition, for
instance the rosemary roasted mushrooms and chestnuts on soft polenta (p 65), a
warming, hearty meal fitting for sharing with the whole family.
"There was no sophistication in this simple meal; its real
value was in that genuine Italian spirit of conviviality where the food is
there as a conduit for happiness - no bells or whistles required.” ~ Silvia
Whether it’s for dazzling guests, cooking for family, or
even making edible gifts, La Dolce Vita is a lexicon of Italian favourites,
designed so that everyone can live ‘the sweet life’ together. A welcome
addition to the kitchen catalogue or the coffee table.
Recipes and images extracted from La Dolce Vita by Silvia Colloca, published by Penguin Random House.