A Great New Food Memoir: Only In Naples

Only In NaplesOnly In Naples:

Lessons In Food and Famiglia From My Italian Mother-In-Law


Are you one of those people who likes to read cookbooks like a novel? When you travel, do you like eating the food that locals eat? Then I have a book for you: Only In Naples by Katherine Wilson. The book is an ode to good eating. Every chapter will make you hungry and you’ll stop worrying about excessive calories—even while eating them. Let me share the basic outline of this book:

Katherine Wilson, an American, had just graduated from college and was ready for her traditional “year abroad.” She could only find a three-month internship at the American Consulate in Naples. She took it, loved Naples, and expanded her trip into a year-long stay. What prompted Katherine to stay was being immediately cocooned into the famiglia of the Avallones. Specifically, it was Salvatore, her future husband, but another strong pull was Raffaella, her future mother-in-law, and the amazing Neapolitan food she makes.

Although the book is considered a memoir, that is completely woven around the story of traditional food. Some of the chapters are titled with one of the food dishes that are lovingly prepared and enjoyed. That food then highlights events within Katherine Wilson’s experience. Examples are O Ragu, Pasta e Fagioli, Eggplant Parmesan and Rococo Cookies and Eggnog.

I want to give you a flavor for how much fun this book is to read. Here is the beginning of the directions for making “rushed” ragu. (“Rushed” only takes three hours vers the normal ten hours.) Please not this ragu dish bears no resemblance to that little jar by the same name.

“First put an apron on, and don’t think of removing it until you’ve turned off the stove. When the ragu starts to spit, it rakes no prisoners. Get a pot that is not only wide but tall. (The height is important when the sauce spatters—Raffaella is worried about your kitchen as well as your clothes.) Dice thwe onion and pur ir in the pot with olive oil.

Non ti detto di accendere ancora. She hasn’t told you to turn on the flame yet, so keep your pants on.”

See what I mean? It’s like sitting with your grandmother at the kitchen table as she explains all the secrets to her favorite dishes. Yes, she might think you’re dense enough not to know to put on an apron. The entire book is very conversational. I definitely feel as if Katherine Wilson is one of my friends.

The single over-arching principle I took from reading Only In Naples is that food is something to completely immerse yourself into. We should enjoy preparing it and smelling it and looking at it and carefully tasting it, then talking about it. In other words, we should completely immerse ourselves into the food we consume. Isn’t that what we “foodies” do?

Highly recommended. You won’t want to miss this one.

P.S. I listened to the audiobook version which was read by the author who has a background in theater. Very well done.


I’m linking this post to Weekend Cooking. You can find more Weekend Cooking  posts at Beth Fish Reads.


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14 Responses to A Great New Food Memoir: Only In Naples

  1. Oh my gosh, I’m dying to read this now!!

  2. Beth F says:

    You won me over with this earlier in the week, but NOW? It’s going to be next audiobook, when I finish the current one. This really sounds sooooooo good.

  3. Claudia says:

    Just reading your review makes me want to do everything over, and have a year in Naples (or Rome) first, living with an Italian family. Oh well, will just have to read the book.

  4. Oh this sounds wonderful! I love cookbooks and foodie memoirs and I absolutely love the tone of the excerpt you shared. I’ll definitely be adding this to my TBR and I’ll have to look for the audio. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I’ll certainly be looking out for this one! Have a great week!
    Cheers from Carole’s Chatter!

  6. Laurie C says:

    Oh! I have this from NetGalley and it’s going to expire soon. It sounds like I’ll be sorry I didn’t listen to the audiobook instead of reading the print version, but I must get to this ASAP! Sounds great!

  7. Vicki says:

    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I can’t wait to read it!

  8. I have this book on my TBR list and now you make me want to read it even more as I adore a good foodie memoir–especially one with a touch of humor. 😉

  9. Esme says:

    Thank you for this-I am looking for some new books and this will be perfect.

  10. I love the cover of this book and I know so many of my friends who would just love it.

  11. This sounds wonderful, Margot! Definitely my kind of book.

  12. Molly says:

    This sounds like a PERFECT summer book to listen to while driving around town.
    We hope to return to Italy next year for our 35th anniversary, and this will certainly put me in the mood to start planning 🙂

  13. Tina says:

    You certainly have me interested with this glowing recommendation. I will add it to my Goodreads list!

  14. This sounds like my kind of book. Going to recommend it to my Cook the Books Club.

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