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De Blasi, Marlena

De Blasi, Marlena

PERSONAL: Born in Schenectady, NY; married Fernando de Blasi (a banker); children: two. Education: State University of New York at Albany, B.A.; also attended graduate school at New York University.

ADDRESSES: Home—Orvieto, Italy. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, P.O. Box 2225, Chapel Hill, NC 27515.

CAREER: Has worked as a chef and partner of a café.

WRITINGS:

Regional Foods of Northern Italy: Recipes and Remembrances (cookbook), Prima (Rocklin, CA), 1997.

Regional Foods of Southern Italy (cookbook), Viking (New York, NY), 1999.

A Thousand Days in Venice: An Unexpected Romance (memoir), Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2002.

A Thousand Days in Tuscany: A Bittersweet Adventure (memoir), Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2004.

Contributor of restaurant reviews to periodicals.

SIDELIGHTS: Marlena de Blasi has long had a love for food. She was the co-owner and chef of a St. Louis café and has written about restaurants, food, and cooking for a number of different publications. Now making her home in Italy, de Blasi directs culinary tours of Tuscany and Umbria with her husband, Fernando de Blasi.

Drawing from her vast knowledge of Italian foods and cooking, de Blasi has written two cookbooks focusing on Italian cuisine: 1997's Regional Foods of Northern Italy: Recipes and Remembrances and 1999's Regional Foods of Southern Italy. Both cookbooks take care to describe the atmosphere, history, and people of Italy's many towns and cities as well as provide detailed recipes of traditional dishes from those regions. The recipes usually consist of ingredients accessible to the average cook.

In 2002 de Blasi published A Thousand Days in Venice: An Unexpected Romance. This memoir documents the author's blossoming romance with an Italian man she meets in Venice while on vacation with friends. The two begin a long-distance relationship, and soon Fernando asks de Blasi to move to Venice to be with him. The author's tales of life in Italy focus on the cuisine and culture of Venice, as well as the humorous challenges of a cross-cultural romantic relationship.

Many critics of A Thousand Days in Venice enjoyed the author's honest and revealing voice, which provides readers with a deep understanding of her experiences. "De Blasi relates it all in a voice at once worldly and sensuous, unsentimental and aware of what it means to have such good fortune," wrote one Kirkus Reviews contributor. Others lauded the author's detailed descriptions of everyday Italian life. In her account of the markets at the Rialto, "she conjures up vivid images of produce … and picturesque scenes of the vendors," observed a reviewer for Publishers Weekly.

In 2004 de Blasi picked up where she left off on her last memoir with the release of A Thousand Days in Tuscany: A Bittersweet Adventure. This memoir follows Fernando's and de Blasi's move from Venice to Tuscany, where the couple buys an old farmhouse and works to renovate it. The book is also replete with descriptions of the local cuisine and culture. Many of the chapters close with recipes the author has written about earlier on. Critics were again generally positive toward A Thousand Days in Tuscany. Some reviewers noted that although food is a strong focus of the book, the author conveys a deeper story about her adventures. "De Blasi is more than a sunny regional food writer—she digs into the meaning of life," wrote one Publishers Weekly contributor. On a similar note, others found the author's work rich with reflection and thought. According to a Kirkus Reviews contributor, de Blasi's book provided "an object lesson in living fully from a genuine sensualist unabashed by her emotions."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

De Blasi, Marlena, A Thousand Days in Venice: An Unexpected Romance, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2002.

De Blasi, Marlena, A Thousand Days in Tuscany: A Bittersweet Adventure, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC), 2004.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, July, 1999, Barbara Jacobs, review of Regional Foods of Southern Italy, p. 1905; October 1, 2004, Mark Knoblauch, review of A Thousand Days in Tuscany, p. 291.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2002, review of A Thousand Days in Venice, p. 379; August 15, 2004, review of A Thousand Days in Tuscany, p. 785.

Library Journal, September 15, 2004, Sheila Kasperek, review of A Thousand Days in Tuscany, p. 72.

Publishers Weekly, June 7, 1999, review of Regional Foods of Southern Italy, p. 78; April 1, 2002, review of A Thousand Days in Venice, p. 62; July 26, 2004, review of A Thousand Days in Tuscany, p. 44.

ONLINE

Allen & Unwin Web site, http://www.allen-unwin.com/ (May 31, 2002).

Barnes & Noble Web site, http://www.barnesandnoble.com/ (June 20, 2005), biographical information on Marlena de Blasi.

Italian Food Forever, http://www.italianfoodforever.com/ (May 31, 2002), review of Regional Foods of Southern Italy.

Saga Online, http://www.saga.co.uk/ (June 20, 2005), William Langley, "The Food of Love."

WritersWrite.com, http://www.writerswrite.com/ (May 31, 2002), review of Regional Foods of Southern Italy.

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