PASTA, PANE, VINO: No End to Italy’s Epicurean Wonders

Pasta, Pane, Vino

Deep Travels Through Italy’s Food Culture

Pasta, Pane, Vino cover

Roads and Kingdoms
Author Matt Goulding
Narrated by Will Damron
Listening Length: 9 hours and 12 minutes
Unabridged Audiobook 
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Release Date: March 12, 2019

I voluntarily reviewed an advance reader’s copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.


This is not a cookbook. This is something more: a travelogue, a patient investigation of Italy’s cuisine, a loving profile of the everyday heroes who bring Italy to the table. Pasta, Pane, Vino is the latest edition of the genre–bending Roads & Kingdoms style pioneered under Anthony Bourdain’s imprint in Rice, Noodle, Fish and Grape, Olive, Pig.

Town by town, bite by bite, author Matt Goulding brings Italy to life through intimate portraits of its food culture and the people pushing it in new directions: Three globe-trotting brothers who became the mozzarella kings of Puglia; the pizza police of Naples and the innovative pies that stay one step ahead of the rules; the Barolo Boys who turned the hilly Piedmont into one of the world’s great wine regions.

From the pasta temples of Rome to the multicultural markets of Sicily to the family–run, fish–driven trattorias of Lake Como, Pasta, Pane, Vino captures the breathtaking diversity of Italian regional food culture.


My Take Oblong Shaped

Indeed, as the blurb above announces, this is NOT a cookbook.  Compared to Frances Mayes’s tour of Italy, Goulding’s journal, is limited and felt as if he were following in the footsteps of the late, great (and, for me, sorely missed) Anthony Bourdain in search of Nonna’s (grandma’s) cooking, but he ends up exploring how producers, farmers, restaurateurs and consumers are maintaining a commitment to the ideals of Italian food: respecting tradition but incorporating worthy new ingredients and techniques.  The mozzarella brothers mentioned in the blurb are good examples of how tradition can incorporate new ideas without losing integrity.

And, the story also looks at a traditional eatery with a no nonsense lake-to-table  ethic that affects everyone who visits.

But I also felt the author was unfocused, stuck in his past adventures in Spain, and a little whiny, and self-indulgent; chasing tradition as he bemoaned “what was happening to Italian cuisine, to how it is being “romanticized.”  I was confused about whether the entire book happens in one fell swoop: as it sometimes felt like he was traveling with his spouse and other times he seemed to be recovering from rejection.

Goulding and Bourdain were both struggling with changes in Italian food and culture, and yet, as one quote in the book says , Italian cuisine is frozen in time but not encased in Amber.  I just felt confused a lot of the time. And, this is partly because the audiobook was styled in the same way the print book was — with quotes about heroes, and memories — but without context.  This is the problem with translating experiential, and strongly visual, print books to audio. Seriously, these little vignettes were incomprehensible without checking out the print book on Amazon.

On the other hand, they attended the same truffle festival that my husband and I did, so there was a personal connection.

Speaking of the audio, I would swear Damron was the news-anchor voiced reader of several other nonfiction books, bit it looks like this is the first Damron for me. He has a pleasant voice and it didn’t seem he was just reading the book but that he was indeed Matt Goulding and had had all these experiences himself.

This is a more chef, or food historian approach to Italian food than the Frances Mayes’s book SEE YOU IN THE PIAZZA.  I did learn an important celiac tip: many sauces are augmented with the water from cooking wheat-based pasta.

This is a great book for more technically oriented lover of Italian cuisine and tradition. This feels like the story of a guy trying to reconcile the past, present and future of a cuisine, and whether it’s his business anyway.


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