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Gino's Italian Escape: A Taste of the Sun by Gino D'Acampo

We have gathered all the fantastic reviews our Book Club Members have sent us this month.

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The Viking reviews

This is what happened when the Viking team got together to cook recipes from Gino’s Italian Escape

GRIDDLED COURGETTE SALAD WITH CHILLI DRESSING

Thinly slicing the courgette and then griddling it was an especially time consuming task, which ended in not much food. That said, the end result was delicious. Some people thought that it needed more lemon and salt but overall, the food was fresh and tasty.

PAPPARDELLE WITH SAUSAGES AND LEEKS

We used half the recommended quantity of pasta in this dish and it was plenty. However there wasn’t a huge amount of flavour.

STEWED NECK OF LAMB IN THYME AND RED WINE

Some of the Viking team thought that this needed something more for a kick, while others gave it nine out of 10 for taste.

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE, PISTACHIO AND CHILLI BISCOTTI

“Amazing”, and “gorgeous” were the two words we used for this tasty recipe. You could really taste the chilli but they were a little dry.

FLORENTINE PASTA SHELLS STUFFED WITH BEEF & BÉCHAMEL SAUCE

The Viking team absolutely loved this recipe. It looks really hearty, while some felt it needed more garlic to accompany the mincemeat. This traditional dish is perfect for family meals.

BAKED PASTA WITH AUBERGINES

This dish was nice but it needed something more to give it some more flavour.

FRESH COD AND RED ONION FRITTATA

It was funny to see the red onion turn blue, and we used less oil than stated in Gino’s recipe.

SPICY POTATO SALAD

This looked and tasted amazing – the spice is really strong though. You can eat it hot or cold and the nice flavours and fresh herbs make the perfect side dish or main.

CHOCOLATE PANFORTE WITH AMARETTO

We felt this recipe would be better with less nuts and ice cream. While we couldn’t taste the Amaretto, the dessert was still “dangerously delish”. Even those who aren’t crazy about chocolate will appreciate this dish – it’s sticky in a good way, with yummy crunchy bits.

VENETIAN RICE WITH PANCETTA AND PEAS

The peas absolutely make this dish – they add freshness and they work really well with the pancetta.

BITTER CHOCOLATE AND ALMOND SQUARES

Contrary to what the name suggests, these desserts are not really that bitter. We loved the lovely chocolatey taste and they also look amazing.

COURGETTE AND RICOTTA TART

The ingredients are easy to source, which is handy, while we were surprised by the strange pink colour. It tasked OK but could have done with more seasoning.

KISSES BISCUITS

This mix of biscuit and chocolate was the best –simply yummy.

Alison Eyley

I love reading a good cookery book, especially one with great photographs. Gino's Italian Escape is more than a good cookery book; each section has a beautifully written, informative introduction followed by really interesting recipes almost all of which are accompanied by luscious looking photographs. I like the way Gino compares and contrasts the way food is served in Northern Italy to that in the UK, for instance he explains how, in Italy, the side dishes are served separately and with few ingredients, so that the individual flavours shine through. Gino has a pleasant conversational tone to his writing, especially in the introductions to each recipe, sometimes mentioning the historical background of the dish, whilst at other times referring to the way his version of the dish was devised. The recipes themselves are easy to follow; my favourites (so far) being the 'Chicken in balsamic vinegar with asparagus and cherry tomato salad' and the 'Savoy cabbage with pancetta and white wine'. The chapter on Rice and Risottos looks particularly good, with such a lot of different recipes to try. Reading this book on a cruise would certainly give one an appetite!

Sheila Moss

For kitchen, coffee table or Viking Cruises lounge, this colourful little gem will whet your appetite. Based on his successful television series, our cheeky chappie Gino D’Acampo will set your taste buds racing as he explores the cuisine of Northern Italy.

This beautifully produced and illustrated book has different sections to represent the wide variety of food available. In his lovely introduction Gino celebrates the contrasting recipes of each region he visits, and shows how to bring dishes to life in your very own kitchen. As he says, my dishes are easy to create and I will never let you down, still stand strong in saying Minimum Effort, Maximum Satisfaction!

Each recipe has a short celebratory introduction followed by the list of ingredients, how many servings to expect, and a step by step guide for the eager cook. There is also a lovely photograph, which was reassuring for Bernard when he had a stab at the Tuscan Baked fennel. The Spinach and lemon soup was a subtle success even if we didn’t use the mountain of spinach leaves he recommends.

We avoid using the large quantities of salt he often suggests, and were left wondering exactly how large is a large potato!

Enjoy! Buon appetito!

Kevin Power

I like the forward to the book and the small introduction to each section. Honestly although a lot of cook books have such, I never read them.

I may do so from now on. The explanation of the regionality of Italian cooking was clear and enticing. His hints on wine were not 'wine buffery’, and the cooking notes with each recipe reminded me so much of “the blessed Delia". I have tried a couple of the dishes and used a sauce he recommends. The simple starter on page 36 (Grissini and parma ham) was really rather tasty!

The Polenta cake on page 230 caused me to think again about that bland yellow stuff I usually decline. The Caper butter sauce (page 102) I served with cod loin, verrry nice! Potato and smoked salmon crocchette is next up.

The photography is good, I liked the mix of scenery and dishes. The Idea of having just a few dishes of great taste in each of the sections makes the book far more friendly and I will use and recommend it.

Linda Beacom

Thank you for this. I was rather surprised that it is a recipe book but I had seen a few episodes of the series on TV so knew the style of the author.

I liked the fact that the dishes were not overly fussy. Even my husband wanted to try some of the recipes and he produced some very tasty food.

The way the dishes are categorised by main ingredient was good but my husband has a nut allergy and this was not highlighted, which would have been helpful. I had a go without the nuts and the dishes were still edible, but lacked a bit of flavour. I am having a dinner party this weekend so will try some of the dishes on our friends. Above and beyond the call of duty possibly but fresh new dishes that taste of summer are always welcome.

Judith Dickinson

This book does exactly what it says on the cover. It brings A Taste of the Sun into a cold, damp British winter. The illustrations at the start of each chapter bring delightful glimpses of Italian architecture and daily life. Each section has a conversational introduction from Gino about the area and the way each course is accentuated. Almost all dishes have an accompanying photograph, showing how they look when plated up, together with Gino’s personal observations about the dish and its ingredients, making this book a real pleasure even before you start cooking.

There is a strong emphasis on taste, but I was delighted to find that this was achieved without a store cupboard of exotic flavorings. Many of the recipes can be adapted to suit the personal palate, e.g. replace meat or fish with vegetarian alternatives. I have attempted dishes that I would have thought to be outside my culinary comfort zone, with great results. I will definitely keep trying new recipes. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to experiment with food, or who simply just loves Italian food. Buon Appetito!

Ruth Mannell

A book full of delights! Attractive, a good size with illustrations of almost all the recipes.

The introductions to each chapter both inform and whet the appetite and the comments at the start of each recipe are a good personal touch.

Instructions are easy to follow although it would have been useful to have preparation and cooking times at the start of each recipe. The recipes require store cupboard or easily obtainable ingredients and every recipe that I have cooked so far leads to dishes with wonderful flavour. The spaghetti with king prawns and tuna and the braised scallops with peas and sun dried tomatoes were both quick and easy to prepare and tasted absolutely delicious. There are some good ideas to make potatoes and vegetables more interesting and the amaretti and chocolate mousse cake is a rich and fabulous dessert. Every recipe I have tried I will be making again and the second pear and banana sweet bread will be made within a week as it disappeared so quickly.

To quote Gino: ‘Minimum effort, maximum satisfaction.’

Peter Gabbitas

This is a well presented book with easy to follow recipes and lovely photos of the finished dishes. The forewords of each section show Gino's love and enthusiasm for Italian food.

Having travelled extensively in Italy we have sampled a lot of the cuisine and having eaten pizza and pasta all over the world, there is nothing to beat the Italian product.

We look forward to trying many of the recipes especially those that are not commonly served in Italian restaurants in the UK.

A good recipe book for lovers of Italian food.

Margaret Gilmour

My husband is the cook in our house and we went through Gino's Italian Escape recipe book together. It's a lovely well illustrated book. The recipes capture your imagination and are all very cook able. Unlike other exile books, when you read Gino's, you just want to have a go!

We liked page 125, Spaghetti with king prawns and tuna. It's not only simple to cook but is at the same time mildly exotic. There is something for everyone on this book and we intend to work our way through many of the other recipes.

Alan Kendrick

The combination of ingredients and the straightforward instructions look extremely promising. The pictures look mouth-watering and we will be trying some of these very soon. We have high expectations.

Lesley Mansfield

My first book of Italian recipes, I found this a good starting point for developing my range of Italian dishes. I enjoyed trying out new recipes and variations of old favourites. As someone who has for many years made my own bread, I particularly liked experimenting with some of the pizza and bread recipes. Having two daughters who are rather fussy vegetarians, it is a bonus to be able to extend my range of vegetarian dishes which use ingredients that I know they both enjoy. The instructions are clear and concise and, unlike many other recipe books, you do not need to buy a wide range of exotic ingredients before starting cooking. I have not yet had the chance to try out any of the desserts, but look forward to doing so.

I found the introduction and notes at the beginning of each section both interesting and informative. Unlike many recipe books that I have bought over the years where I have tried one or two recipes and then the books have remained on the shelf, I feel that this is a book that I shall be returning to on a regular basis.

Lorna Taylor

This book accompanies Gino’s 2nd TV series. It is a delightful book, with great photos to entice you to the mainly simple recipes.

We loved the Antipasti section best for new ideas (gorgonzola, fig and prosciutto wrap is amazing). We eat a lot of chicken at home. The new favourite (so far) is the very simple chicken in balsamic vinegar – so easy but very, very good. 

What can I say about Italian desserts? Tempting, rich, delicious - even making sweet pasta to fill with nuts, honey, chocolate and ricotta was worth the time. Our favourite – Amaretti and chocolate mousse is divine, just need to prepare with enough time to chill.

A bright happy cookery book - highly recommended.

Dag Saunders

Fresh Cod and Red Onion Frittata (page 94)

Ingredients

The ingredients were easy to obtain – bought from Waitrose but could be obtained from most supermarkets.

Preparation

The preparation was a multi stage process with no difficulties. It took no more than 30 minutes which would be reduced with familiarity with the recipe when steps could be undertaken simultaneously rather than in a one at a time fashion which is inevitable with a new recipe.

Cooking

This was absolutely straightforward with no problems whatsoever.

Conclusions

As Gino says this looked like taking a risk but the end product was appetising, tasty and very enjoyable. It really worked.

The key question is would I cook/eat it again? – the answer is a resounding "yes". It is likely to become a regular dish although I may well try Gino's variations ie salmon or trout. The big bonus is also it is low calorie and healthy.


Pasta with pesto, green beans and potatoes (page 126)

Ingredients

No problem with obtaining the ingredients apart from Pecorino cheese which we substituted with Parmesan as suggested by Gino.

Preparation

The preparation was simplicity itself and included the wonderful smell of the basil although I did use a grinder rather than a pestle as you would need a very large pestle to deal with the ingredients. 

Cooking

No problems – the overall time from start of preparation to the meal being cooked and ready was about 30 minutes. I did pop the potatoes into the oven for a couple of minutes to make sure they were warm.

Conclusions

Tasty and filling. The ingredients worked together well – using fresh basil rather than bought pesto sauce was a major plus in the taste sense.

An easy, somewhat different vegetarian option, ideal for a television meal. This will definitely be on our regular list.


Roasted monkfish wrapped in Parma ham (page 97)

Ingredients

Obtaining the ingredients took a little planning with the monkfish tails ordered from the fishmonger a few days in advance. The other ingredients were readily available in the supermarket. It should be clear that this is a fairly expensive meal so not for every day.

Preparation

The preparation was fairly straightforward and presented no particular problems although the "staged" process did mean some careful planning including the boning of the monkfish which can be a little fiddly if not pre-filleted.

Cooking

As has been said the "staged" process meant the overall preparation and cooking time was about an hour and a half so a good chunk of uninterrupted kitchen time is useful. There were no issues in the cooking element although we could smell monkfish for the next couple of days which might be a drawback for some people.

Conclusions

We cooked this for a dinner party and it was an absolute winner. Much enjoyed by everyone with compliments abounding. We will certainly do it again but not too often owing primarily to the cost – special occasions only!


Bitter Chocolate and Almond Squares (page 234)

Ingredients

No problem obtaining the ingredients, readily available from local supermarkets.

Preparation

A little bit fiddly owing particularly to the timescales.

Cooking

Straightforward but you need to follow the instructions carefully.

Conclusions

This was a major disappointment. Given the weight of chocolate and cream invested the result was mediocre and nothing special. The almond taste was a bonus but apart from that basic shop bought brownies with a spot of cream on would have done just as well. Not up to the usual standard Gino.


My Grandfather's Tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce (page 112)

Ingredients

The attraction of this was the simplicity of the ingredients, all of which were already in the house so we were able to respond to sudden arrival of children and grandchildren.

Preparation

There were no problems, you need to ensure the vegetables are finely diced ie not simply sliced, total preparation time was less than 30 minutes followed by the cooking.

Cooking

This presented no challenge and was straightforward – the slow cook worked perfectly.

Conclusions

The end product was a little disappointing for the adults – Gino why no garlic? The young people said it was brilliant so it will be in the freezer as a stand by in the future, possibly with a smidgeon of garlic.


Griddled Courgette Salad with Chilli Dressing (page 30)

Ingredients

All ingredients were readily available in the kitchen, no special shopping needed.

Preparation

Unfortunately we only have an electric hob so instead of griddling we had to grill, this probably added a little time to the preparation but was no real problem.

Cooking

Simplicity itself.

Conclusions

Went down extremely well with our guests, even those who did not like spicy food. Will certainly repeat as a little out of the ordinary.

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