About the book
Laura Patterson is an American exchange student in Rome who, fed up with being inexpertly groped by her young Italian beaus, decides there’s only one sure-fire way to find a sensual man: date a chef. Then she meets Tomasso, who’s handsome, young — and cooks in the exclusive Templi restaurant. Perfect. Except, unbeknownst to Laura, Tomasso is in fact only a waiter at Templi — it’s his shy friend Bruno who is the chef. But Tomasso is the one who knows how to get the girls, and when Laura comes to dinner he persuades Bruno to help him with the charade. It works: the meal is a sensual feast, Laura is utterly seduced and Tomasso falls in lust. But it is Bruno, the real chef who has secretly prepared every dish Laura has eaten, who falls deeply and unrequitedly in love.
Reviewed by The Olive Tree Reading Group:
Well liked, good holiday reading. Lots of discussion. One member made some of the recipes.
Star rating: ***
6 thoughts on “The Food of Love by Anthony Capella”
Review by BBC Reading Group:
The views were mixed. It was considered an OK but light read. The characters were considered very shallow and the plot thin. Some of the story aspects were fun and interesting like Rome, the coffee machine, the visit to the mills and the van. In general the group enjoyed it.
Star rating: ***
Review by Biscuits, Books and Banter Reading Group:
Enjoyable and easy read. The book is a play on the Cyrano de Bergerac story with chefs and waiters in leading roles. Good food descriptions and a wonderful look at Italian food culture. Fun and saucy, would recommend.
Star rating: ***
Review by Hawkley Book Group:
Not enough substance for the group to discuss. Some of the group liked the ‘food’ content but all felt the story line was weak.
Star rating: *
Review by Everton Reading Group:
A light read with suitability for a summer read. Rather contrived and at times contrived and irritating. Some good descriptions of places and the food (rather over-done!). One member of the group who visits Italy loved it!
Star rating: **
Review by anon:
A fascinating mixture of steamy sex, gastronomic overindulgence and wonderful descriptions of the sights and smells of Rome, the Italian countryside and Italian culture. Compulsive reading, I found it very hard to put down and finished it very quickly indeed! It is an inspiring story about life, love, relationships and, above all, Italy and its food. However, as a non-meat-eater, I found the gruesome descriptions of the various types of meat and offal absolutely revolting.
The two male leading characters are complete opposites of one another. Tommaso Massi is a caricature of a typical Italian male – regarding women as sexual conquests, his cupboard of photographs of all of the women he has lured into his bed and plenty of outward bravado. Bruno is a passionate and talented chef in a high-class French restaurant in Rome.
Tommaso moves in on an American art student called Laura, pretending to be a chef in order to impress her and trick her into his bed. He persuades Bruno to cook intimate meals for him and Laura, which he then passes off as his own. In the meantime Bruno has seen, and fallen in love with, Laura. He uses his culinary skills like a wizard, creating spells from food to capture the heart of the woman he has fallen in love with. Despite the fact that Tommaso had tired of Laura, he and Bruno fall out rather dramatically when poor Bruno confesses to kissing her just the once!
After their friendship is broken, a wilderness period occurs for both men. Tommaso continues to try and pass himself off as a chef and run the business they both started, Il Cuoco, with disastrous results. Bruno buys a terrible old van and proceeds to drive it aimlessly north through Italy, finally ending up in the hills of the Galtenesi, where the van breaks down.
Here I felt the story really took off with Bruno coming into his own and being loved and appreciated by Benedetta, the female cook whose mother owned the small bar he ended up staying in. I enjoyed this part of the story and at this point believed he would settle happily here with Benedetta.
However, shortly after Laura and her new lover, Kim, visit the bar and he sees her again he falls under her spell and thoroughly disappoints me by leaving Benedetta and the lovely part of Italy he seemed to have settled in to return to Rome and try to win Laura’s heart! Considering the remoteness of this little bar and the enormous number of Italian bars, trattoria, restaurants etc, it was far too much of a coincidence for me that she would suddenly turn up here!
The ending of this book seemed very rushed to me, compared to the rest of the book. I simply couldn’t understand why he went crawling back to Tommaso and worked in his ghastly, commercialised pizzeria, especially after having been a chef in a very high class restaurant in Rome beforehand.
The scene in Templi, where Bruno arranges the ‘kidnap and imprisonment’ of the head chef and his sidekick and then proceeds to take over the restaurant purely for the purpose of enticing Laura into his arms on the same night that Kim proposes to her, was, in my view, extremely far fetched. The final chapter, consisting of a series of emails between Bruno and Laura, proved to be an unsatisfactory conclusion to this book. Did Anthony Capella rush the ending to meet some publishing deadline?
I was given this book as a present for Christmas but I have to say I was not very impressed. The story feels stretched and unbelievable, the characters are similarly unbelievable.
However, it was a lesson in Italian food and Italian culture. The scenes of Rome, including the little Italian insults were authentic however every Italian knows that best “ristretto” in Italy comes from Naples (regardless of which coffee machine!)