Lurking in the Cupboard #6 – ‘Italy In Bocca’ cookbook

July 16, 2013

Something caught my eye this week which led to the next instalment in my occasional Lurking in the Cupboard series. And I’m e$pecially excited. (Yes, the dollar sign’s intentional.)

Turns out that a cookbook I bought in 1980 is worth about $US275. Friuli e Trieste in Bocca (roughly translated as A Taste of Friuli and Trieste) is one of a series of 20 regional Italian cookbooks published in 1978 but now out of print. The rare first edition was recently featured in L.A. Weekly’s ‘Chef’s Library’ series and Saveur magazine – and acknowledged as must-haves by collectors of vintage cookbooks.

Printed on heavy brown recycled paper (with what only looks like bits of grits incorporated into the wood-pulpy stock ) the Italy In Bocca series includes recipes, poems, proverbs, folklore and zany original artwork.

Friuli Venezia Giulia in Bocca cookbook

illustration: Rodo Santoro

The cover illustrations for the series are nothing if not vibrant. I think this edition has captured Kirk Douglas during his Man from Snowy River period but the book predates the film so that’s pure coincidence.

recipe and illustration

illustration: Andrea Sciortino

Most of the books are trilingual – written in English, Italian and a regional dialect. And if that’s not confusing enough, my cookbook has both the Triestine and Friulian dialect, the latter being a Romance language in its own right.

Two Women

People from this region are often portrayed as taciturn, but the illustrations of these stern women are enough to scare away small impressionable children.


Some of the traditional homestyle recipes were a revelation to my mother and me. Over the years, we’ve tried some of the more unusual ones, but we drew the line at frogs and chamois.


illustration: Manuela Busetti

The editors weren’t much interested in food photography, opting instead for illustrations with props such as cats hovering near the polenta.

The trigger for revisiting the cookbook is that popular inner Sydney wine bar – 121BC Cantina & Enoteca will be holding a pop-up event in late July based on recipes from four of the Italy in Bocca series. Dishes will be produced by the talented PinBone collective who are obviously huge fans of the books too. Can’t wait to see what curiosities they serve up.



  1. I **LOVE** this book Ambra, what a treasure. Do you know Friulano? My aunt used to speak it a bit as she had a shop in Monfalcone and some of her customers came down from the hills & woild speak Friulano to her. When I lived there in the 70s & would play in the shop after school, I would see the customers so I can confirm (if my childhood memory serves me correctly), they actually looked like those illustrations ! I was a bit scared of them as I didn’t understand what they were saying!

    • No I don’t know Friulano, Paola. But from looking at the book, I think you need a uni degree to understand it. And yes, aren’t the illustrations amazing? Kind of grotesque … I bet it didn’t do much for tourism in the area.

  2. I must get that chamois recipe next time we meet………Fileep

    • Sure thing Fileep. I thought I might try it for dinner and have you/Jill/Dill around and tell Dill it’s chicken. Wonder if he’d notice?

  3. Just…Inspirational!

    • Thanks very much. Glad you enjoyed it.

  4. So Ambradambra, how do YOU make tripe appetising for kids?
    It can be done, believe it or not! =)…

    • Tripe isn’t one of my favourite dishes. My mother used to cook it when I was little and tried making it appetising by cooking it in a lovely Italian tomato sauce. Unfortunately the only thing lovely was the sauce – not the tripe.

  5. Hi Ambra! Thanks for sharing this great post! When I was 7 or 8, I remember how hesitant I was about eating frog legs at my nonna’s house. My uncle encouraged me to try them stating that they ‘taste like chicken’. I tried them and they really tasted like chicken. I ate the portion that was on my plate, but I have never had any since. And chamois? I had to google it to see what it is. I don’t think I’ll be trying it anytime soon. lol

    Thanks for stopping by my blog (www.fortheloveofitaliancooking.com) a while ago! Sometimes I wonder how people find my blog, since I haven’t done any networking. 🙂

    I tried looking for Calabria in Bocca and did not find anything in my search. It would have been interesting to see what recipes they would have had written in calabrese (I grew up speaking the language at home).

    Take care,

    • Hi Rosa. I’ve only tried frogs a couple of times too and am certainly not in a hurry to try chamois. Re the cookbook, try googling ‘Calabria in Bocca’ cookbook. I know that these books (both the originals and the cheaper reprints) sometimes come up on e-bay, or you could try contacting the publishers here: http://italy-in-bocca.com/ . Good luck and thanks for your kind comments.

  6. Oh I love this, I wish they made cooksbooks like these nowadays!

    • Yes, I agree, so much more interesting than just recipes with glossy colour photographs. True, these photographs make the dishes look tempting, but sometimes it’s good to know a little bit about the history of the dish or anecdotes about the ingredients. Thanks for your comment.

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