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“Viva Italia”: Reads for Italian American Heritage Month

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“Viva Italia”: Reads for Italian American Heritage Month

Italian-American Heritage and Culture Month is celebrated in October by proclamation of the President and Congress in the United States to honor the achievements and contributions of Italian immigrants and their descendants living in the United States, particularly in the arts, science, and culture.  The American Community Survey estimated 16 million people or 4.8% of the total 333.3 million U.S. population in 2022 reported Italian ancestry.

To celebrate this rich heritage, here is a selection of recently published nonfiction and fiction by and about Italian Americans or set in Italy,  and of course, books revolving around Italian food and cuisine all available in the Livingston Library collection.

NonFiction

burn a black candle

Burn a Black Candle : An Italian American Grimoire by Dee Norman

The Italian folklore tradition is one of the most ancient unbroken chains of wisdom on earth. Discover the previously unwritten secrets of an Italian American family’s magical tradition passed down from generation to generation. This spellbook provides easy, step-by-step introductions to the basics of authentic Italian American magical practice. 

City of Echoes : A New History of Rome, Its Popes, and Its People by Jessica Warnberg

In this authoritative new history, Wärnberg tells the story of Rome’s longest standing figurehead and interlocutor–the pope–revealing how his presence over the centuries has transformed the fate of the city of Rome. As the first-ever account of how the popes’ presence has shaped the history of Rome, it not only illuminates the lives of the remarkable (and unremarkable) men who have sat on the throne of Saint Peter, but also reveals the bold and curious actions of the men, women, and children who have shaped the city with them, from antiquity to today. 

In Sardinia : An Unexpected Journey in Italy by Jeff Biggers

After three decades of living and traveling in Italy, Biggers finally crossed over to Sardinia, uncovering a treasury of stories amid major archaeological discoveries rewriting the history of the Mediterranean. Based in the bewitching port of Alghero, guided through the island’s rich and largely untranslated literature, he embarked on a rare journey around the island to experience its famed cuisine, wine, traditional rituals and thriving cultural movements. Beyond its fabled beaches, reconsidering how its unique history and ways have shaped Italy and Europe today, Biggers explores how travelers must first understand Sardinia and its ancient and modern history to truly understand the rest of Italy.

The Italian Squad : The True Story of the Immigrant Cops Who Fought the Rise of the Mafia by Paul Moses

With blackmail, bombings and kidnappings terrorizing New York, courageous Italian immigrant detectives teamed up as the NYPD’s Italian Squad. This explosive story follows them across the first two decades of the twentieth century as they battle increasingly powerful gangsters and deeply engrained prejudice against their beloved immigrant community.

Fiction

borgia portrait

The Borgia Portrait by David Hewson

When Arnold Clover is recruited by Lizzie Hawker to help her look into her family inheritance, he cannot begin to guess the journey he is about to embark on. Lizzie’s mother, an Italian countess, disappeared thirty years ago, presumed dead. Her father, a famous, some say infamous, music promoter, has just died and now the family home Ca’ Scacchi, a leaning palazzo in Dorsoduro, has fallen to her. When her mother vanished, so too did a priceless painting, supposedly an erotic portrait of Lucrezia Borgia, which has captivated men for generations. When a body is discovered in a hidden crypt beneath the checkerboard courtyard of the palazzo, other secrets are unearthed with it. Lying with the body is a document, a story of an episode in Casanova’s colorful life, and within it a set of clues that might lead to the location of the painting. But it quickly becomes apparent that Lizzie and Arnold are not the only ones interested in finding the painting. The search for the lost Lucrezia quickly becomes a race through the secret history of Venice, one with potentially deadly consequences.

Ciao For Now by Kate Bromley

Three fashion design students are accepted for an internship in Rome, where they will stay in the palatial apartment of one of their professors. Violet Luciano is older than the others, and they are adversaries in a competition that could allow her to follow her dream. After arriving in Rome, Violet does a little exploring and, when buying a coffee, accidentally breaks the laptop of a gorgeous guy, making him very unhappy. Arriving at the apartment, she discovers that the surly man from the coffee shop is the professor’s son, Matt, who is a writer for a hit TV show described as “Grey’s Anatomy meets Star Trek” and who is also living in the apartment. The interns work in an established design studio and, in their spare time, design their own five-piece collections that will decide who gets a job at a growing label in Midtown Manhattan. 

Disobedient by Elizabeth Fremantle

Artemisia Gentileschi, growing up in a family of all-male painters, dreams of becoming a great artist in 1611 Rome and completes lesson after lesson until a mysterious tutor threatens her honor and virtue and she is put on trial.

The Last Masterpiece : A Novel of World War II Italy by Laura Morelli

Called to Nazi-occupied Italy in 1943, a German photographer and an American stenographer hunt for priceless masterpieces before they are destroyed by Hitler, in this pulse-pounding adventure inspired by the incredible true story of the Monuments Women, the Fifth Army WACs and the looted Florentine art collections during World War II.

little italian hotel

The Little Italian Hotel by Phaedra Patrick

When relationship expert and radio host Ginny Splinter’s own marriage falls apart, she invites four strangers to Italy for a vacation of healing and second chances.

Murder in an Italian Village by Michael Falco

For young widow Bria Bartolucci, running a B&B in the sun-soaked village of Positano, Italy, was supposed to be like going on a permanent vacation. But it’s hardly la bella vita when her first guest is a dead body… On the surface, Bria’s Mediterranean life radiates beauty–the kind her late husband, Carlo, dreamed about when he concocted the romantic idea to start a bed and breakfast on the breathtaking Amalfi Coast. With the grand opening of Bella Bella approaching six months after Carlo’s tragic death, Bria and her eight-year-old son Marco brace for a bittersweet new beginning by the sea… Before celebratory vino flows on opening day, a stranger appears in an otherwise pristine guest room, lifeless and covered in blood. Bria can’t understand why murder would check into Bella Bella. And police are just as puzzled. As suspicions fall on a B&B employee, what’s certain is that saving her reputation–and surviving–depend on catching the real killer before it’s too late. Flanked by her feisty best friend, Rosalie, and well-traveled sister, Lorenza, Bria vows to prove to everyone in Positano that no one at Bella Bella was involved with the crime. But as the women expose a scandal that stretches across their dazzling tourist village, it will take everything they’ve got to name the murderer and avoid becoming the next target of someone’s deadly vendetta.

My Father’s House by Joseph O’Connor

September 1943: German forces have Rome under their control. Gestapo boss Paul Hauptmann rules over the Eternal City with vicious efficiency. Hunger is widespread. Rumors fester. The war’s outcome is far from certain. Diplomats, refugees, Jews, and escaped Allied prisoners flee for protection into Vatican City, the world’s smallest state, a neutral, independent country nestled within the city of Rome. A small band of unlikely friends led by a courageous Irish priest is drawn into a deadly battle of wits as they attempt to aid those seeking refuge.  This book is inspired by the extraordinary true story of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, who, together with his accomplices, risked his life to smuggle Jews and escaped Allied prisoners out of Italy right under the nose of his Nazi nemesis.

Return to Valetto by Dominic Smith

The story of an heir’s return to an abandoned town in Italy, the secrets of the family who stayed, and the long shadow of fascism and collaboration in World War II.

sally bradys italian adventure

Sally Brady’s Italian Adventure by Christina Lynch

Abandoned as a child in Los Angeles in 1931, dust bowl refugee Sally Brady convinces a Hollywood movie star to adopt her, and grows up to be an effervescent gossip columnist secretly satirizing Europe’s upper crust. By 1940 saucy Sally is conquering Fascist-era Rome with cheek and charm. A good deed leaves Sally stranded in wartime Italy, brandishing a biting wit, a fake passport, and an elastic sense of right and wrong. To save her friends and find her way home through a land of besieged castles and villas, Sally must combat tragedy with comedy, tie up pompous bureaucrats in their own red tape, force the cruel to be kind, and unravel the mystery, weight, and meaning of family.

Stars in an Italian Sky by Jill Santopolo

Genoa, Italy, 1946. Vincenzo and Giovanna fall in love at twenty-one the moment they set eyes on each other. The son of a count and the daughter of a tailor, they belong to opposing worlds. Despite this, the undeniable spark between them quickly burns into a deep and passionate relationship spent exploring each other’s minds, bodies and their city, as well as Vincenzo’s family’s sprawling vineyard, Villa Della Rosa—until shifts in political power force them each to choose a side and commit what the other believes is a betrayal, shattering the bright future they dreamed of together.

New York, 2017. Cassandra and Luca are in love. Although neither quite fits with the other’s family, Cass and Luca have always felt like a perfect match for each other. But when Luca, an artist, convinces his grandfather and Cass’s grandmother to pose for a painting, past and present collide and reveal a secret that changes everything.

24 Hours in Italy by Romi Moondi

A new destination, a familiar spark… Two years have passed since Mira and Jake missed their flight and spent a magical 24 hours together in Paris. Sparks flew. Romance bloomed. But life got in the way. When they’re reunited for another whirlwind adventure, will they connect in the same way? Mira’s living her best life, having started a new chapter by taking a leave from her high pressure corporate position to spend time in Italy. Surrounded by amazing scenery, fantastic food and wine, and endearing locals, her life is nearly perfect–except for the thoughts of what might’ve been with Jake. While Jake’s career has never been better, the move to California has been less than perfect. Still, he’s got high hopes that seeing Mira at their friends’ destination wedding can right past wrongs. Except travel has never been his strong suit, and his reunion with Mira is punctuated by another, more recent heartbreak. When the pair collide again on the gorgeous Amalfi coast, the spark they felt in Paris is reignited, but their quest for a happy ending will surely be as rocky as the Italian coastline.

 Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story by Terri-Lynne DeFino

Three generations of Paladinos butt heads and break one another’s hearts as they wrestle with their own Jersey Italian love stories in this hilarious and life-affirming ode to love and family.

Food and Cooking

cooking with nonna

Cooking with Nonna : Sunday Dinners with La Famiglia by Rosella Rago

In her third cookbook,Rago, host of the popular web series Cooking with Nonna, partners once again with her beloved Nonna Romana to help you host memorable and delicious Sunday dinners. With 130 easy-to-follow recipes, accompanied by beautiful photographs and heartwarming stories of food and family from New York and Puglia, Rossella and Nonna provide all the inspiration you need to gather friends and loved ones around your table.

Cucina Povera : the Italian Way of Transforming Humble Ingredients Into Unforgettable Meals by Giulia Scarpaleggia

Cucina povera, Italian peasant cooking, is the art of making do with what you’ve got. This centuries-old cooking style transforms humble ingredients and leftovers into hearty, satisfying meals.   Readers will learn how modern this traditional way of cooking can be: the economical approach means that many of the dishes are vegetarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free; all of the dishes follow a waste-not approach.  The book is structured into chapters reflecting the key themes of cucina povera: Cook from the garden with Minestrone Soup; eat plant-based proteins for filling, economical meals, including Fried Chickpea Polenta; make preserves to enjoy Tomato Sauce and Pickled Vegetables all year long.

The Eternal City : Recipes and Stories from Rome by Maria Pasquale

Discover Rome’s incredible food through the city’s stories and its people. The Eternal City is a maze of winding cobblestone streets, where ancient history waits at every turn. Within these storied laneways, Rome’s culinary traditions are honored and transformed by local chefs, pizza makers, cheesemongers, butchers, wine experts, bakers and more – who make Rome one of the great food capitals of the world. Visit the places where Romans eat every day, from the trattoria to the home kitchen, through the dishes that define these locations. With 70 recipes shared by iconic eateries, chefs, and Maria’s family and friends, this is a love letter to Rome that takes you past the monuments, and into the lives of modern-day Romans.

Italian American : Red Sauce Classics and New Essentials by Angie Rito

Reimagine Italian American cooking with more than 125 big-hearted recipes from the celebrated husband-and-wife chef team of Don Angie in New York City.  They reinvigorate the genre with a modern point of view that includes multicultural influences inspired by New York City and updated dishes that proudly straddle the line between Italian and American. Italian American is organized by the backbones of the cuisine, including cold and hot antipasto, ragus, pastas, and even entire chapters dedicated to lasagna and meatballs

Italian Wine : the History, Regions, and Grapes of an Iconic Wine Country by Shelley Lindgren

An introduction to the wines of Italy by region and grape, focusing on how the history of the country shaped Italian wines today and how modern winemakers are looking to the past to revive the industry. It explores each of Italy’s 20 regions and details the history, land, grape varietals, food pairings, and suggested producers for each region.

italy by ingredient

Italy by Ingredient : Artisanal Foods, Modern Recipes by Viola Buitoni

A US-based cooking instructor, Buitoni’s passion is sharing the beloved flavors of her homeland with home cooks. In this debut cookbook, she presents the history and geography of Italy’s most iconic ingredients, showing modern home chefs how to incorporate robust flavors and techniques into their kitchens. With recipes organized according to a single ingredient, each chapter bursts with taste: learn how to make a traditional ragù sauce with conserved tomatoes; layer a plate of prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella; or bake a polenta custard tart. Practical guidelines for seasonal eating, easy substitutes for hard-to-find items, and valuable shopping tips complement the approachable recipes.

Pasta Veloce : 100 Fast and Irresistible Fast Recipes From Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Meyes

Mayes is known for transporting readers to the charming Italian countryside in her bestselling books. Here, she brings that irresistible Italian flavor right to your home with 100 of her favorite pasta recipes. These well-loved recipes blend traditional Italian technique with magic from Mayes’s home kitchen where experiments are always in progress.  This cookbook offers a multitude of under-30-minute luscious recipes, all accompanied by Mayes’s evocative text.

Portico : Cooking and Feasting in Rome’s Jewish Kitchen by Leah Koenig

A captivating tour through Rome’s centuries-old Jewish community with more than 100 simple, deeply flavorful, vegetable-forward recipes.  The city’s Jewish residents have endured many hardships, including 300 years of persecution inside the Roman Jewish Ghetto. Out of this strife grew resilience, a deeply knit community, and a uniquely beguiling cuisine.  Koenig’s recipes showcase the cuisine’s elegantly understated vegetables, saucy braised meats and stews, rustic pastas, resplendent olive oil-fried foods, and never-too-sweet desserts.  A cookbook for anyone who wants to dive more deeply into Jewish foodways, or gain new insight into Rome, Portico features the makers and creators who are keeping Roman Jewish food alive today, transporting us to the bustling streets of the Eternal City while also making us feel-as we cook and eat-very much at home.

Recipes from Rome by Katie Caldesi

A culinary exploration of Rome, Italy’s capital and one of the world’s most loved cities, with its iconic landmarks and neighborhood trattorias. Husband and wife team Giancarlo and Katie Caldesi unearth Rome’s hidden gem recipes that have been handed down through generations, as well as new, exciting dishes inspired by Romans from all walks of life. The duo present their interpretations of classic dishes, like Katie’s Spicy Cheese and Pepper Pasta, alongside family favorites, such as Sea Bass with Parma Ham and Sage. Collaborating with Rome’s best chefs, they also share modern recipes like Fiery Hot Chilli Sorbet that reflect the heat and color of this bustling city.

-Archana Chiplunkar, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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