Look at Italian cookbooks alone--three new ones I can't do without! Arthur Schwartz's Naples at Table ($32.50; HarperCollins) explores the cuisine that, until recently, meant "the kind of Italian food you've heard of" to most American cooks. As Schwartz makes happily clear, the food of this southern seaport city encompasses not only pizza but also Peppered Mussels, Prosciutto Brioche and Smothered Escarole. The information is encyclopedic, and Schwartz seems to have the knack for making friends wherever he goes. "You're hanging out with your buddies and suddenly you're all hungry. What would you make?" he asks one young cook, who "without hesitating...shot back with this recipe that takes less time to cook than the pasta."
In Food and Memories of Abruzzo ($35; Macmillan), Anna Teresa Callen writes that most dishes from this relatively isolated region of central Italy (especially well-known for its lamb and its peppers) "travel no farther than the next generation." But Callen grew up in Abruzzo, and she wants to make her readers part of the family. The text is lavishly spiced with chatty anecdotes and snapshots of her family--perfect bedside reading.
Meanwhile, Joyce Goldstein has been busy researching Italian family food of another kind. Rome is the site of the oldest Jewish community in Europe, and in Cucina Ebraica: Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen ($30; Chronicle), Goldstein has taken on the enormous task of codifying Italian Jewish cuisine. Most of the recipes she found had been passed down orally, and the ones that were written contained instructions like "Assemble dough in the usual manner." Goldstein's perseverance has resulted in a collection that's homey, elegant and informative, and her Crispy Fried Artichokes alone would be worth buying the book for.