Title: Osteria
Author: Rick Tramonto
276 pages; Hard cover PhotographyColor
Publisher: Broadway Books, NY, NY 2008
Reviewed by, Chef John V. Fall 2008

The review---

Good Cooking reviewed Rick Tramonto's last book Fantastico in December 2007 and gave it high praise. His new cookbook, Osteria, named after his restaurant Osteria di Tramonto in Chicago is fabulous too! In Italy an Osteria is the equivalent of the English Tavern, where food is not terribly fancy but good tasting and where the menu encompasses the hours it is open. A tavern might open early in the morning and serve breakfast, then lunch, afternoon snacks, dinnner and desserts.

Rick Tramonto's book showcases the menu of his Chicago Osteria with its recipes and some really nice pictures of the food. Earlier I said not fancy, so you do have a recipe and picture of uova all'inferno, eggs in hell, a breakfast dish. Yet on the other side of not fancy is a very modern presentation for tonno siciliano, Sicilian Style Tuna: very rare seared sliced tuna with baked fennel, sea salt and basil oil. It looks like an artist's palate with all the colors.

I tried three very simple dishes, Roast Chicken Picatta Style, Roasted Parmesan-Creamed Onions and Peaches in Red Wine with Whipped Mascarpone. The chicken recipe is fairly easy to follow except the boning procedure for the chicken would be a challenge to a novice! All in all, it tasted good when it was finished, however the finished product didn't exactly look like the one in the bookah those food stylists! The same could be said for the onions. Easy to make, tasted good but my finished recipe didn't have the appearance of the photo in the book. The peaches were simple to prepare and tasted very good.

This book will make a great holiday present for a young aspiring chef or anyone else for that fact. The recipes are good and fit into the professional way of cooking. The technique is good, the book well written, pictures are very nice. It's another winner from Rick Tramonto and I'll be sure to eat at his Osteria the next time I find myself in the windy city of Chicago!

Recipes tested---

Roast Chicken Piccata-Style

Roast chicken is one of life's simpler pleasures, and because I am so enamored with it, I am always on the lookout for new and interesting ways to cook it. Piccata usually refers to thin cutlets served with a lemony sauce, but for this I use partially boned chickens-and boning the birds is the only difficult part of the recipe. But you can have your butcher do it. Everything else is straightforward. I love the flavors of lemon, capers, and a good confetti of parsley with the roast chicken-a simple pleasure made even more gratifying when cooked this way.

serves 4

Two 3-pound whole chickens
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Clarified Butter (page 147) or vegetable oil
2 lemons, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
2 cups dry white wine
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons drained capers
juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Split the chickens in half and remove the breast section of one half with the wing attached. Leave the skin between the breast and the leg attached, cracking the thigh joint of the chicken and cutting through to separate the leg from the body while it remains attached to the breast by a thin strip of skin. Remove the drumstick completely, trying to leave as much skin from the leg intact as possible. Make an incision in the thigh along the thigh bone and remove the thigh bone. Repeat on the other side and with both chickens. Ask your butcher to do this for you, if you like. (Reserve the drumsticks and carcass for stocks.)
2. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
3. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
4. Heat 2 large ovenproof sauce pans over medium-high heat. Put 1/4 cup of clarified butter or oil in each pan and cook the chicken halves, skin side down, for about 4 minutes. Transfer the pans to the oven and cook for about 12 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chickens from the pans and let them rest for about 5 minutes.
5. Put the lemon slices in the pans and let them cook over high heat for about 1 minute so that they caramelize. Add the wine and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon and scraping up any browned bits, for 2 to 3 minutes, until reduced by half.
6. Add the unsalted butter and capers and stir the sauce to emulsify the butter with the pan juices. Squeeze the lemon juice into the sauce, remove from the heat, and continue stirring until blended. Stir in the parsley. Put a chicken half on each serving plate, skin side up, and spoon equal amounts of sauce over each. Serve immediately.

The sommelier recommends, Lemon, butter, and capers are the ultimate white wine accoutrements, and the rule is not excepted here. Choose a fuller-bodied style of wine, enveloped in oak, and your meal will be perfectly matched. Chardonnay is the obvious grape to choose, but these days winemakers are doing Chardonnay-like things to other grapes. Vie di Romans in Friuli makes an oak aged Pinot Grigio called "Dessimus."

Roasted Parmesan-Creamed Onions

Talk about succulent! The yellow onions are pretty pungent when you slice them, but surrender their kick when they are roasted and become sweet and tender. When they reach this point, the cream sauce is poured over them, they are topped with shaved cheese, and then the whole thing is returned to the oven for a slow melt. I like to cook these in a wood oven to get some smoke on them, which makes them even better-if that's possible. Great with chicken, lamb, beef-you name it! I also like It'served as a first course.
serves 4

4 medium yellow onions
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved (about 2 tablespoons)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. Slice the onions into 1/4-inch-thick rings and lay them in a shallow baking pan, such as a sheet pan or jelly roll pan. Drizzle with the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 18 minutes, or until lightly browned.
3. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring the cream and wine to a simmer over medium-high heat. As soon as the liquid starts to bubble around the edges, remove from the heat.
4. Spoon about a tablespoon of the cream mixture over each onion slice. Cover with aluminum foil, return to the oven, and cook for about 25 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 450 F.
5. Remove the foil and top the onions with the shaved cheese. Return the pan to the oven and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the edges caramelize. Serve hot.

Peaches in Red Wine with Whipped Mascarpone

I love peaches. White or yellow, as long as they are ripe and juicy, I am there! I like peaches eaten out of hand, or cooked, as in this recipe. Other stone fruits are on my list of favorites, and so I use this recipe to make the most of the summer's bumper crop of nectarines and plums, too. Here I suggest serving the peaches with whipped mascarpone, which is lush and decadent, but they would be fantastic with ice cream, too.

serves 4

4 ripe peaches
2 cups dry red wine
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup toasted walnuts

1. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Drop the peaches in the water and boil for 6 or 7 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and let the peaches rest for about 30 seconds before peeling the skin with a small paring knife. It will slip right off. Halve each peach and remove and discard the pits.
2. In a saucepan, combine the wine, brown sugar, and thyme. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the poaching liquid is reduced to a syrupy consistency.
3. Put the peach halves in a shallow dish, pour the warm wine over them, cover, and let stand for 4 to 12 hours. If the peach halves are not completely covered with wine, turn them after 2 hours. Turn them several more times during soaking if left in the wine for longer than 4 hours.
4. Using a wire whisk, whip the cheese until the consistency is smoother, lighter, and creamier. Fold in the granulated sugar and lemon zest.
Put 2 peach halves in each of 4 serving bowls and spoon a little of the liquid over them. Top each with the toasted walnuts and a dollop of cheese.

Note: To toast the walnuts, spread them in a small, dry baking pan in a 300
F oven for 5 to 15 minutes. Shake the pan now and then to prevent burning and to turn the nuts. The nuts are done when they are fragrant and a shade darker. Transfer to a plate to cool.