Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain explains what this week's "family" theme means.

on Feb 2, 2011

Early in my marriage, my wife's primary complaint when I tried to cook for her was "Baby, you put too many things!" I learned quickly -- from her and from my in-laws -- what even years cooking in good Italian restaurants had not entirely cured me of: That one should never complicate Italian food. That they are not kidding when they say they want the ingredients to speak for themselves. They want to taste the pasta. They want to taste the principle ingredients. Angelo buried his pork chop in sauce and garnish. It didn't suck, but it missed the point. Richard -- who has been on some kind of weird schnitzel-jag lately -- did a breaded, fried pancetta, which, while tasty, was over-unctuous with all the fried exterior.  Fabio, thank God, saved us all from what had been turning into a very ugly mood at the table, by choosing to make Chicken Cacciatore. Better yet, he served it with perfectly-executed creamy polenta--instantly bringing back happy memories to everyone at the table. I became momentarily lost in reverie for  a crummy looking but wonderful place near Minerba Del Garda, where they serve it with tiny little birds that have been roasted on a spit. You make a well in the polenta and pour the rendered fat into it. Heaven. Fabio almost took this one home--but the feeling among the judges was that the chicken was a little over-herbed. The perfect choice of dishes for the crowd, true. And nicely done. But the chicken itself fell just short of wonderful. Antonia's damn mussels, simplest, easiest goddamn thing in the world to make, were, in fact, wonderful. They made the people at the table happy. And that's what family is all about.