By Christine Salins
PS News Books
Un Amico Italiano: Eat Pray Love in Rome
By Luca Spaghetti (Viking, $29.95, softcover, 242 pages)
Don’t ask about the author’s name. Yes, it really is Spaghetti. I asked the same question too, thinking that it was probably a clever pseudonym for someone with a fairly spurious reason for going into print.
In fact, Luca Spaghetti spends a considerable part of Un Amico Italiano talking about the impact that his name has had on his life.
It seems that even in Italy, people think it’s amusing to share one’s name with pasta, and the author apparently got no end of ribbing for it during his youth.
Luca Spaghetti got over the neuroses about his name and grew up to become an accountant in Rome.
Despite his extraordinary name, he probably would have led a rather ordinary life had he not met Elizabeth Gilbert, the woman who went on to write the international best-seller, Eat Pray Love.
Introduced by a mutual friend, the pair sealed their friendship across dinner tables, in soccer stadiums and on scooters, with Spaghetti introducing Gilbert to the pleasures of pasta, particularly the joys of penne all’arrabbiata.
He became an integral character in her book and later the film of the same name, and given the extraordinary success of both, I guess it was only time before the spin-offs started coming.
And so we have a book that is really a memoir within a memoir, a book whose only reason for being written is that its author is a character in another book.
It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that there’s nothing terribly remarkable about what Luca Spaghetti has to say, nor how he says it.
It flits all over the place, from giving a rundown on the various types of pasta, to trips to America and his obsession with the music of James Taylor.
Not exactly gripping stuff, but Spaghetti does have a friendly charm and those who enjoyed Eat Pray Love (the book and/or the film) might be interested to know how he and Gilbert met and have continued to keep in touch.
There are some nice lines about places of interest in the Eternal City, written from the perspective of a born and bred Roman (and nicely translated, I have to say). All in all, an easy, breezy read.
To find out more about Christine Salins click here.