If anything, To Romance, with Love demonstrates the unpredictable versatility of the cookbook format. From scientific tome (à la Modernist Cuisine) to enviably lush foodie travelogue (à la Avec Eric) to the recipe-for-romance earnestness of this book, there are cookbooks out there to suit every … desire. And while most restaurant professionals would lean toward the first two as a Valentine’s Day gift (with emphasis on the first first), it’s hard to deny the adorably cheesy allure of a cookbook “for Lovers … and Those Who Want to Be.” Written by Dave Valletta—and, appropriately, “not possible without Denise Valletta”—To Romance, with Love is written as a kind of cookbook-instructional guide for culinary couples, complete with spiral binding and high school French textbook-style illustrations.
To Romance, With Love by Dave Valletta
Menus are interspersed with romantic tidbits—stories of date nights gone cutely awry, quotable amorous sayings, the top five things a wife wants—and are composed according to a theme, e.g., “Endless Love,” “You’re Still the One,” and “Baby I’m-a Want You” (wherein wine-drenched steamed clams lead to a sensual feast of mixed greens and shrimp scampi over fettuccini). And while recipes like the Arugula with Shaved Parmesan on the “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” menu won’t reach anything beyond ambitious home cook level, that also means they’re a snap for the chef-lover in your life to prepare. Which, as we all know, leaves more room—and much more time—for innuendo, er, dessert.
But don’t buy it for the recipes, professionals. Don’t buy it for the photography; don’t buy it for the casually cartoonish illustrations of your mise en place (a.k.a. “Tools for Love”). Buy it, or just buy into it, because it’s the anti-serious, the unprofessional, the cookbook-as-sensual-back-massage that any working restaurant professional needs. To Romance, with Love is a throwback, Lionel-Richie-esque love-fest that risks silliness for the sake of pleasing your partner (and his or her palate). On Valentine’s Day, or any other day, that’s something worth savoring.