On my bookshelf, otherwise known as "odd things Krista reads while on the elliptical at the gym."
Seriously, I confound my personal trainer, who wonders how I can possibly read about food while exercising without getting hungry or wanting to eat all the bad things described in the book or magazine.
Of course, my trainer has been trying to convince me that I shouldn't eat carbohydrates after 4 p.m. for the past four years. Yeah, like that's going to happen.
Although I love food literature, I am not normally a biography reader. Pino Luongo's biography Dirty Dishes: a Restauranteur's Story of Passion, Pain and Pasta intrigued me because Luongo was an Italian immigrant who came to the United States with no formal culinary training, barely a lick of English and running from conscription in the Italian military. Along the way, he marries (and divorces) a longtime girlfriend to get his green card and starts several apparently prominent Manhattan restaurants, only one of which still existed at the time the book was written. (Incidentally, I just searched for Luongo's website and that of his last restaurant, and couldn't find either.)
|Photo from Amazon.com|
Although I finished the book and it was a relatively quick read, I cannot recommend it unless 1) you really like immigrant stories or 2) you are interested in this particular man. First of all, the book is written in a somewhat stilted manner, particularly the first fifty pages. This may be a result of an uneven collaboration between Luongo and his cowriter, but it makes for a slow start in what is the most interesting part of the story. Luongo's description of his mother's cooking and its influence and his contentious relationship with his father sets up most of the decisions he makes as an adult, but it is told in an impersonal and circuitous manner.
Although the writing smoothed out a quarter of the way in, I sensed that Luongo wanted to be presented in the most favorable possible light and the co-writer followed suit. Underneath the stories about how generous Luongo was with his employees and how much he cared about his business reputation was an undercurrent that Luongo was a selfish hothead who made impetuous business decisions.
There is a great immigrant's story here, but it is buried in what often feels like a vanity project. The book also missteps in having the co-writer narrate long sections (which are italicized for even greater irritation) about his conversations with Luongo while writing the book. Andrew Friedman is a decent writer--a better book he edited is here--but since it seems that he is santizing his subject he becomes an unreliable narrator.
Anyone else read this book? If so, tell me what you thought.