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SINATRA'S FAVORITES: PATSY'S SHARES THE FAMILY RECIPES

By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 16 DECEMBER 2008 - Despite the traumatic global financial crisis of 2008, food remains a booming business these days judging by the avalanche of books appearing each week on the shelves of my local bookstore. But if one possesses the works of Elizabeth David and The Joy of Cooking - without which no Christmas dinner or self-respecting Thanksgiving turkey can be cooked - what else does one really need? Perhaps Marcella Hazan's The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, and Madhur Jaffrey's invaluable Indian Cookery are books which no serious cook can possibly be without, not forgetting, even if for inspiration only, subscriptions to glossy food magazines full of mouth-watering pictures of dishes one will probably never make. But once one has all these, why be tempted by anything else?

Clarkson Potter/Publishers can give you several very good reasons. In 2002, they came up with Patsy's Cookbook, an enchanting little book full not only of delicious and practical recipes (I've tried several of them) from Patsy's Italian Restaurant in New York, but also many amusing anecdotes of Frank Sinatra, one of their most popular customers and the man who introduced all his family, friends and colleagues to the establishment. It's therefore a must for all those who delight in the Hollywood melodramas of the 1950s in which he starred, and who (like me) remain eternally puzzled as to why Grace Kelly of High Society fame didn't end up with "bad boy" Frank instead of sleazy Bing. Truth be told, in every Frank Sinatra film I've seen -and I must have seen most of them - my childhood hero with the cheeky grin always seemed to get short-changed on the girl. Gene, Burt or Bing always got their foot in first.

However, he's certainly the hero of this book, as stated in the foreword written by his daughter, Nancy, who recalls the countless casual dinners, after-theatre suppers and family celebrations there. "My father absolutely loved Patsy's Italian Restaurant," she writes, before continuing with the confession that she herself has more than once raced straight to the restaurant from JFK airport, luggage in tow, before going to her hotel. (And all those traveling Air France these days might do well to follow her example).

However, as the publicity blurb tells us, "Patsy's" has been a legendary dining destination in New York since it was opened by the Scognamillo family in 1944. The first chef was Patsy (Pasquale) Scognamillo, who made classic southern Italian cuisine his specialty before handing the restaurant over to his son, Joe. Today, it is Joe's son, Sal Scognamillo who is manning the kitchen and who was encouraged to publish a book of recipes by his customers themselves. The restaurant's great favorites, as well as those of Sinatra himself, including the Lemon Ricotta Torte, the stuffed artichokes, and the Chicken Piccata are all there. Moreover, many dishes are named after the legendary crooner himself. There's Frank's Clams Posillipo, Frank's Arugula Salad, Frank's Fusilli with Garlic and Anchovies as well as Frank's Veal Cutlets (which he enjoyed extra-crisp), hopefully not all eaten at the same sitting. And once, we read, the restaurant even opened for him on a bank holiday when he was feeling particularly down.

Another attractive feature of the cookery book lies in the selection of this likeable family's black and white, historic photographs, not of the food, but of the grandparents, parents, uncles, cousins and nephews as well as the many Hollywood stars from their "wall of fame" dating back to the 1940s.

Nevertheless, despite all the celebrity stories, this is an irreplaceable cookery book which gives simple, easily accomplished recipes that are within the reach of most of us. They are not at all time consuming and practically all the ingredients are easily found. Michelle's all-American cheesecake recipe was one of the most successful I've followed, even if I cheated a little and substituted crème fraiche for the sour cream!*

Rigatoni Sorrentino, Mussels Arreganata and Chicken Parmigiana are just a few of the romantic sounding recipes on offer which taste as good as they sound, and are at the center of this heart-warming story of a happy and successful family business. The only question I ask is why the book took so long to reach me?

*Patricia's French / American Cheesecake after Michelle's.

Make and bake a crust of a third of a cup melted butter mixed with one and a quarter cups of digestive biscuit crumbs for 8 minutes at 370°F.

Cool and fill with a mixture of one pound of cream cheese, half a cup of sugar (taste and add more if you have a particularly sweet tooth), 3 beaten eggs, 1 pint crème fraiche, vanilla extract or fresh vanilla pods, to taste.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350°F, switch off oven leaving cake inside for one hour.

Cool, refrigerate and eat the following day.

Patsy's Cookbook: Classic Italian Recipes from a New York City Landmark Restaurant
By Salvatore Scognamillo
Foreward by Nancy Sinatra

Hardcover: 224 pages
Clarkson Potter; 1st edition (June, 2002)
ISBN-10: 0609609548
ISBN-13: 978-0609609545
$27.50

Patricia Boccadoro is a senior editor at Culturekiosque.com

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