The Food of Love
For those who didn’t make it to Italy on their summer vacation, The Food of Love offers a first-class getaway to the country. It’s another variation on the classic Cyrano de Bergerac, this time with a culinary twist. With a perfect sense of place, wonderful food and a warm storytelling style, Anthony Capella delivers a most enjoyable read.
Laura Patterson is an American college student spending a year studying art in Rome. So far, she hasn’t had the best luck with Italian men. One morning while drinking her coffee at a sidewalk café, she has a cell phone conversation with a friend, who recommends Laura find a man who can cook, since they make great lovers with their dexterous hands. Laura jokingly agrees that she’ll hold out for a cook.
Her conversation does not go unnoticed. Tammaso Massi, a handsome ladies’ man, overhears Laura’s comment. Later, he sees her in a food shop buying ingredients for a meal she’s planning. He immediately steps up and offers advice on what she should make, pretending to be a chef. Tammaso works at Templi, one of the most prestigious restaurants in Rome, but he’s actually a waiter, and he can’t cook. When Laura calls him asking for help on the recipe, Tammaso turns to his friend Bruno, a sous chef at Templi, to bail him out.
Before long, Bruno agrees to help Tammaso further by preparing delicious meals for Laura that Tammaso can claim as his own. Then Bruno sees the object of Tammaso’s attentions, and realizes that she is the same woman who caught his eye on the street earlier. Plain, shy Bruno has nowhere near the skill Tammaso has with women, and he couldn’t bring himself to talk to Laura. His talents lay solely in his culinary abilities, so he has to resign himself to pouring his heart into the magnificent meals he prepares for her. But the masquerade can only go on so long, especially since Tammaso seldom settles on one woman for long, and Bruno has to wonder if the truth will cost him any chance at Laura.
This is very much a light confection. It’s not very deep or serious. It’s simply a sweet, fun, and romantic read with charm to spare. The author has a wonderful way of portraying the local atmosphere, from the sights to the food to the people, that it feels like the reader is truly there. There are so many little details that make the setting feel authentic, all of which are smoothly blended into the narrative. The story has an inviting feel to it, as though the reader is being introduced to the city and surrounding countryside by someone who knows it well. Anyone who enjoys a book that really sweeps the reader off to an exotic locale and immerses them in the setting will find much to savor here.
Capella knows his food as well as his setting, and the feeling of authenticity carries over to the culinary portions of the story. The book is divided into sections with headings emulating the courses of a traditional Italian meal (Antipasti, Primo, Secondo, etc.), which is a nice touch. It probably goes without saying that there are plenty of descriptions of incredible food to make a gourmet’s mouth water. Beyond the central love triangle, the author takes the reader into the backstage drama at Templi, a restaurant so exclusive that reservation requests must be submitted in writing and are considered three months in advance.
The characters are all exceedingly likable, even the rakish Tammaso, and the romantic element is nicely portrayed. This is straight fiction rather than romance, so genre rules don’t apply, but it’s still a sweet love story. At times it seems like fiction novels do a better job delivering the heart and romance of a good love story than straight romances so. That’s the case here. As is often the risk with such a featherweight story, it does lose some energy down the stretch, as the complications become greater. Just like with a big meal, the story isn’t quite as fresh and exciting around the fourth course as it is at the start. But it remains a warm, engaging tale from start to finish.
The Food of Love is a delectable concoction. Anyone interested in escaping to beautiful Rome and experiencing the sights, the food and the romance of The Eternal City, here’s your ticket do so.