Matthew Gavin Frank

At Table Series

246 pages


April 2010


$34.95 Add to Cart

March 2012


$17.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

After a childhood of microwaved meat and saturated fat, Matthew Gavin Frank got serious about food. His “research” ultimately led him to Barolo, Italy (pop. 646), where, living out of a tent in the garden of a local farmhouse, he resolved to learn about Italian food from the ground up. Barolo is Frank’s account of those six months.
At once an intimate travelogue and a memoir of a culinary education, the book details the adventures of a not-so-innocent abroad in Barolo, a region known for its food and wine (also called Barolo). Upon arrival, Frank began picking wine grapes for famed vintner Luciano Sandrone. He tells how, between lessons in the art of the grape harvest, he discovered, explored, and savored the gustatory riches of Piemontese Italy. Along the way we meet the region’s families and the many eccentric vintners, butchers, bakers, and restaurateurs who call Barolo home. Rich with details of real Italian small-town life, local foodstuffs, strange markets, and a circuslike atmosphere, Frank’s story also offers a wealth of historical and culinary information, moments of flamboyance, and musings on foreign travel (and its many alien seductions), all filtered through food and wine.

Author Bio

Matthew Gavin Frank worked for over fifteen years in the food and restaurant industry in positions ranging from dishwasher to sous-chef, server to sommelier, menu consultant to catering-business owner, farmhand to janitor. An assistant professor of creative writing at Northern Michigan University, he has published essays in Gastronomica, Creative Nonfiction, and Best Food Writing 2006 and is the author of Pot Farm (Nebraska, 2012).


“Aaahhh . . . ! Here are all the joys of being young and exuberant and passionate and in love with women, and life, and better yet . . . in Barolo. This remarkable and enchanting tale makes me want to set the clock back many years and to book passage to Italy and to the sips of the world’s greatest wine, and to be inspired by all the things that make life such a wonderful journey! Kudos to Matthew Gavin Frank for reminding us what really makes life worth living!”—Charlie Trotter, chef, author, and host of PBS’s Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter

“If you love red wine, you’ll love this book. And it’s just as hard to put down this book as it is a glass of good red. This irresistible story takes you to the real Italy and its rich fragrant wine region where Barolo is made. I want to live in this book forever.”—Gale Gand, executive pastry chef and partner of Tru in Chicago and host of the Food Network’s Sweet Dreams

“Suddenly you are in Italy, suddenly you are in love, suddenly you are picking the delicate Nebbiolo grape under a burning sun—and in a moment Matthew Gavin Frank has captured your unwavering attention, with a firm grasp that continues for all three hundred pages of this delightful and incisive book.”—Lee Gutkind, editor of Creative Nonfiction magazine and author of Almost Human: Making Robots Think

"A misfit in America, an unhappy cook in a series of second-rate restaurants, Frank seizes a chance to escape into a better world. We never learn how he first met Rafaella, or convinced her to let him pitch a tent behind Il Gioco dell'Oca, her bed-and-breakfast near Barolo. But there he is, struggling with minimal Italian, working the grape harvest with Luciano Sandrone, plunging headfirst into a world of mysterious, overwhelming sensations."—Thomas Matthews, Wine Spectator

"One swig of this book, and you're hooked."—

"This is pleasure not just in the subject of Barolo, but also in Frank's writing. A master of the unexpected metaphor, Frank commands prose that is lively and original; he never resorts to cliché."—Amy Sherman, Gastronomica

Table of Contents


1.  The Fewest Idiots                                                                           

2.  Dialing for Raffaella                                                                    

3.  The Boy Brings Me                                                                     

4.  Enough                                                                                          

5.  Four Sips                                                                                       

6.  All You Have to Do is Say, “Si”                                                  

7.  Grape-Shaped Ball of Light                                                         

8.  Between the Bell Beats                                                                

9.  Red-Beard’s Silent Deal                                                               

10.  Dixieland Basement                                                                    

11.  Pruning                                                                                      

12.  Follow the Steeple                                                                      

13.  Limbo on the Landscape                                                            

14.  Slow                                                                                            

15.  Halves                                                                                         

16.  Luca Sandrone Enters Shakedown Street                                  

17.  Chandelier, Carpet, Mariuccia                                                    

18.  Orange                                                                                        

19.  The Bleary Music of Wineshop Franco                                    

20.  Breadstick Hydra                                                                        

21.  Raw Meat and Barry White                                                        

22.  When She Draws It, She Draws It                                             

23.  The Unfinished                                                                           

24.  Trust the Pear                                                                              

25.  Italian Butcher Shop Blues                                                         

26.  Instructions of Ercole                                                                 

27.  Laundry                                                                                      

28.  The Other Side of Tonight                                                          

29.  Billboards, Booths, and Cameras                                                         

30.  Valentina and the First Taste                                                      

31.  Six Barolos, Four Figs                                                                

32.  From Barolo to Vinegar                                                             

33.  The Truffle of the Barn                                                           

34.  Sleeptasting                                                                                

35.  One More Song                                                                           

36.  Heroes and Villains Commune Over Ceci                                  

37.  Nightpicking                                                                            

38.  La Partenza della Filovia                                                          

39.  The Dateless Label                                                                      

40.  Something Small to Tide Me Over                                         

41.  Late                                                                                             

42.  He Was Right                 

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