Nostrana Is Having a Moment With Vintage Cardboard Cookbooks

A dinner series starts March 8 based on its “rare and iconic” collection of 1970s recipes.

Nostrana (Joe Riedl)

Keen-eyed Nostrana diners may have noticed the Buckman Italian restaurant’s growing collection of unusual-looking cookbooks. The restaurant staff has spent years collecting all 20 first editions of the “In Bocca” (in the mouth) series of cookbooks produced in the late 1970s by Palermo, Italy, publisher Il Vespro.

First, they built a display for them in the Nostrana dining room, adjacent to the kitchen. Now, they’ve created a whole dinner series based on them, beginning this Friday, March 8.

“It’s hard to overstate how taken we are with these books,” chef Cathy Whims said in a statement. “But these aren’t merely showpieces: We’ve also used them as a source of inspiration.”

"Friuli e Trieste," the inspiration for the Nostrana In Bocca dinner series (Il Vespro)

Each book focuses on an Italian region or city. The unique design features oatmeal-paper pages bound between corrugated cardboard, and stylish, evocative screen prints on the cover. In one illustration on an inside page, flames lap at the bottom of a stockpot as it boils over while an egg cracks midair into a cute little heart-printed bowl next to it. The hand-lettered text on the facing page is in Italian and a regional dialect.

Chefs Whims and Sara Woods’ first event of the Nostrana In Bocca dinner series kicks off March 8 with a four-course dinner featuring recipes unearthed from the Northeast Italy book, Friuli e Trieste. The meal includes antipasti misti to start, an arugula and radicchio salad with pears, gnocchi, quick-fermented turnips, and a dessert called a schnitte made of baked golden raisin brioche, cinnamon almond syrup, and honey gelato. The dinner includes wine pairings.

The next two dinners in the series are April 5, transporting diners’ palates to the Aosta Valley region of Italy up near the Swiss Alps, and May 3, which will focus on the region around Venice. Tickets are available here. Nostrana will continue the series with three more In Bocca dinners this fall.

EAT: Nostrana In Bocca, Enoteca Nostrana, 1401 SE Morrison St., Suite 105, 503-236-7006, 6-9 pm March 8, April 5 and May 3. $169.

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