Bravissima! Bravissimo! for the fabulous flavors of Italian cooking Our infatuation with the food of Italy has gone far beyond a mere passion for pasta and pizza. It's become a full-fledged love affair with la cucina Italiana. This has translated into an ever-increasing volume of volumes on Italian cooking, with lots of repetition, imitation, and humdrum entries. So, finding a book, and author, with a fresh approach or hearing from a formidable force in food fashion is cause for jubilation. Susan Herrmann Loomis, who took us on a recipe-packed Gallic gambol with her charming, informative French Farmhouse Cookbook, now takes us on a cook's tour of Italy's rich agricultural landscape in her fresh, authentic Italian Farmhouse Cookbook (hardcover, $28.95, ISBN 0761117911).

The more than 250 recipes come directly from farms and farmers, from cooks who remain connected to the land and prepare unpretentious, economical food with vibrant, complex flavors. No fancy urban flourishes here, just a feast of regional recipes to contemplate and cook. Loomis has explored every part of the Italian countryside, so you'll find an exquisitely simple salad of Radicchio with Anchovy Sauce from the Veneto, Garlicky Cheese Polenta from Lombardy, a real Tuscan Panzanella and a deep-flavored Chicken with Sage, gutsy Glutton's Swordfish sauced with a Sicilian blend of raisins, pinenuts, onions and garlic, Peppery Pork Stew from the Abruzzo, and an Amazing Apple Cake from Umbria made with biscotti dough.

This friendly, chatty book gives you a real feeling for the core cuisine of the country. As you travel with Loomis, you meet the people she met gardeners, rice farmers, olive growers, wine makers, prosciutto curers, cheese makers go into their kitchens, watch them cook and, with a little work on your part, taste their fabulous food.

Sybil Pratt has been cooking up this column for more than five years.

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