In the tradition of M. F. K. Fisher and Peter Mayle, this enchantingly warm and witty memoir follows American-born Katherine Wilson on her adventures abroad, where a three-month rite of passage in Naples turns into a permanent embrace of this boisterous city on the Mediterranean. It is all thanks to a surprising romance, a new passion for food, and a spirited woman who will become her mother-in-law - and teach her to laugh, to seize joy, and to love.
When I saw the sea at Gaeta, I knew that Naples was near, and I was coming home.
Fresh out of college, Katherine arrives in Naples to intern at the United States consulate. "There is a chaotic, vibrant energy about Naples that forces you to let go and give in," writes Katherine, who meets handsome, studious Salvatore one evening and finds herself immediately enveloped by his elegant mother, Raffaella, and the rest of the Avallone family. From that moment, Katherine's education begins: Never eat the crust of a pizza first, always stand up and fight for yourself and your loved ones, and consider mealtimes sacred - food must be prepared fresh and consumed in compagnia.
Immersed in Neapolitan culture, traditions, and cuisine, slowly and unexpectedly falling for Salvatore, and longing for Raffaella's company and guidance, Katherine discovers how to prepare meals that sing, from hearty, thick ragù to comforting rigatoni alla Genovese to pasta al forno, a casserole chock-full of bacon, béchamel, and no fewer than four kinds of cheeses. The secret to succulent, tender octopus? Beat it with a hammer. While Katherine is used to large American kitchens with islands and barstools, she understands the beauty of small, tight Italian ones, where it's easy to offer a taste from a wooden spoon.
Through courtship, culture clashes, Sunday services, marriage, and motherhood (in Naples, a pregnancy craving must always be satisfied!), Katherine comes to appreciate carnale, the quintessentially Neapolitan sense of comfort and confidence in one's own skin. Raffaella and her famiglia are also experts at sdrammatizzare - knowing how to suck the tragedy from something and spit it out with a great big smile.
Part travel tale, part love letter, Only in Naples is a sumptuous story that is a feast for the senses. Goethe said, "See Naples and die". But Katherine Wilson saw Naples and started to live.
"In a world filled with food memoirs, this one stands out. Katherine Wilson gives us more than the fabulous food of Naples. She offers us a passport to an exotic country we would never be able to enter on our own." (Ruth Reichl, author of My Kitchen Year)
"In her debut memoir, Only in Naples, Katherine Wilson manages to combine everything I love - food, family, and Italy - with heaping portions of heart and humor. How lucky we are to get these hilarious and wise perceptions filtered through a sincerely loving eye. You'll want to share this book with friends and family over a big bowl of rigatoni alla Genovese." (Julie Klam, author of Friendkeeping)
"This thoroughly enjoyable love letter to Naples is a tribute to the author's irrepressible mother-in-law, a larger-than-life figure who teaches Wilson (and us) not just how to cook a true Neapolitan lasagna complete with tiny meatballs, but how to approach life itself with gusto and a healthy appetite. Read this and you'll find yourself pining for your very own sequined Italian mother-in-law." (Luisa Weiss, author of My Berlin Kitchen and founder of The Wednesday Chef)
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Enchanting mix of cultures and languages
I’m an Italian reader and I must say that Katherine Wilson has done an amazing job, her characters and settings are so vivid and her Italian Neapolitan accent so spot on. And the mix of languages and cultures is so enjoyable.
Charming memoir, a listener's joy
- Helen L.