Not mine, I'm afraid. Franco Lagattolla's. It's the title of a fun book that I bought the other day for the princely sum of £2.50. That's right, £2.50. One of the things I love about second-hand book hunting is the amount of pleasure old books can bring you for say, the price of some awful paper cup of cold take-away coffee, otherwise known as a "Mocha Light Frappucino Blended Beverage- To Go". The coffee's gone in an instant, but the book stays on your shelf, to be poured over again and again; the cover, typography and graphics to be re-admired, the contents to be savoured and used as a spark for new ideas, or more simply, to dispel the gloom of a boring Sunday afternoon. Oh yes, I love old books. They're like trusty friends. And I like, especially, forgotten books from around forty years ago.
I've written about Franco before. As the blurb on the dust jacket of The Recipes That Made A Million says: "What did Michael Caine, Gregory Peck and Frank Sinatra all have in common? Answer: they all dined at Mario & Franco's superb Italian restaurants in London- the eating success story with the 'beautiful' people in the swinging sixties".
Franco Lagattolla and Mario Cassandro; former waiters at The Mirabelle, first opened the starry La Trattoria Terrazza in Romilly Street, Soho, in 1959. It's hard to believe now, but La Terrazza was the first restaurant in Britain to serve genuine regional dishes from all over Italy. Their story is covered admirably by Alasdair Scott Sutherland in The Spaghetti Tree, Mario and Franco and the Trattoria Revolution, which I would recommend without hesitation.
Here's a recipe I liked the look of from "The Recipes That Made a Million". It's for Pȇches Flambées, otherwise known as Peaches flamed in kirsch. Those of you with pyromaniacal tendencies will appreciate it:
"Peel four firm but ripe peaches. Poach them in plain water and sugar syrup until barely tender. Do not over-cook. Keep them warm.
In a copper pan melt 25g (1oz) of castor sugar and allow it to take on the slightest colour over a low flame. Add the juice of one orange, four tablespoons of the poaching liquor and a string of lemon peel. Dissolve the caramelising sugar, moving it around with the back of a spoon. Now stir in two tablespoons of Melba sauce and add the poached peaches.
Bring up the heat a little and, turing the peaches gently, glaze them in the syrupy sauce. Pour in a large wine glass of kirsch. Prick the peaches so that they absorb some of the flavours. Pull the pan sharply across the fire, and stand well back while the whole lot bursts into beautiful flames".
Melba Sauce, by the way, is just a pureé of rasberry jam, diluted with a little water and simmered for a few minutes, then strained.