Brian O’Reilly wrote the story of Angelina’s Bachelors while his wife, Virginia, created the recipes for this captivating “Novel with Food.” I love “novels with food.” They just seem to weave a spell of comfort, and this one is no exception.
Frank and Angelina D’Angelo live in a tight-knit Italian community in South Philly. Although they both work for a local contractor, Frank as a finishing carpenter and Angelina as the office manager, Angelina’s true passion is cooking. So, she loves creating a special cake for the twenty-first birthday of Frank’s niece, Tina. But, that cake never gets to the party because Frank has a heart attack in the middle of the night, with his last bite a taste of that cake.
Angelina is shattered after losing the love of her life. Fortunately, she has a wonderful mother-in-law, Mamma Gia, a strong woman who helps her through the first days of grief. But, it’s food that gets Angelina through the next days, as she slowly cooks herself through her grief. And, then Gia and Tina deliver all that food to the neighbors. When she learns that the contractor who employed her has lost his business, she doesn”t know what she’s going to do. It takes a new man in the neighborhood to come up with the right proposal.
Basil Cupertino moved in with his sister just in time to enjoy the lasagna delivered to her. Since his sister wasn’t the best cook in the world, he offered to pay Angelina to cook breakfast and dinner for him six days a week. It wasn’t long before word spread, and Angelina found herself cooking for seven bachelors. O’Reilly manages something many other authors fail to do. He gives each of those bachelors a distinct personality, making them memorable characters. It’s easy to tell them apart.
It’s Angelina who is the star of this this book, though. She’s a woman secure in the love of a good man, and defended fiercely by the Italian matriarchs in the community, particularly Gia. She’s respected in the community, and that respect brings men of all ages to her dining room. And, it’s respect for her, and for her food, that encourages those men to step up to help her when her life takes a couple more unexpected turns.
How can you go wrong with a novel with strong women, interesting bachelors, and marvelous foods? I’ll admit, the recipes appear to be quite complex, but it’s still fun to read about all that wonderful food. I was as impressed with Angelina’s cooking as the bachelors were. Angelina’s Bachelors is a delightful story, with characters you’ll love, and food you’ll wish you could sample. Instead, you’ll just have to sample Brian O’Reilly’s book.
Brian O’Reilly was the creator and executive producer of Food Network’s Dinner Impossible, and the co-author of two cookbooks.
Angelina’s Bachelors by Brian O’Reilly. Galley Books. 2011. ISBN 9781451620566 (paperback), 359p.