Rare Italian Cookbooks Resurface for a Good Cause

By August 8, 2020 no comments Permalink
How an obscure collection of Italian regional cookbooks inspired two New York friends to make a film and launch a charity project.

Peter Boggia is a vintage European motorcycle mechanic. He makes a living with his hands and his intellect, physically and mentally unpacking, investigating, and reassembling the intricate engineering of masterworks from Ducati, BMW, Moto Guzzi and more. People from all around New York come to Peter’s Brooklyn shop, Moto Borgotaro, in tribute to his expertise. 

“If it’s not obvious, I’m into it,” Peter says. “Anytime there’s something that’s a little oddball, I kind of gravitate toward it.”

As a teenager in Queens, Peter was hired by a friend’s father to sort and clean a collection of books. Among them were five titles of Italian cookbooks called “In Bocca.” Each book was dedicated to a distinct region or capital. As a comic book enthusiast, the discovery immediately appealed to Peter’s fledgling interest in the obscure, through their cardboard bound covers featuring original paintings of funky designs or comical portraits.

The interiors only increased Peter’s fascination as the pages held recipes both bizarre and familiar, but also artwork and poetry and introductions related to the region. The recipes were detailed in English, Italian, and handwritten local dialect. The books were also a connection to Peter’s Italian heritage, which he felt cut off from due to his family’s insistence on assimilation in America.

As he grew out of adolescence, Peter occasionally thought about the books, but the memory of “In Bocca” returned writ large when he opened his motorcycle shop in 2008 and found himself immersed in the esoteric. He found copies on eBay and elsewhere, eventually acquiring two complete collections from all 20 regions plus the additional three that accompany “Sicilia in Bocca.”

In 2017, Peter took a trip to Italy with his childhood friend from Queens, Roberto Serrini, a filmmaker, travel writer, and lover of Italian food. They rode vintage European motorcycles around the peninsula and ended the trip in Borgotaro, near Parma, the home of Peter’s Italian ancestors and namesake of his shop, where he was feted like a favorite son, introduced by the mayor to all remaining Boggias and featured in the local newspaper.

Back home, Roberto presented Peter a book of photos from their Italian adventure. Peter, in response, gifted Roberto “Roma In Bocca” in honor of his family’s ancestry, and a new fan of the series was born.

“If you let yourself get lost in them,” Roberto said. “The books do an amazing job of capturing all the complex, beautiful things that make up Italy, even to how each region is fiercely independent from the others but still yet connected. And just as the books connected Peter to his family, they connected us, too, as friends.”

On the eve of the coronavirus quarantine, the friends decided to break out the books for a feast celebrating four distinct recipes with the story in its entirety captured in a documentary.

The film “In Bocca” is a brilliant tribute to the books themselves, but, more importantly, it celebrates the love of Italian food and the humanism that best define Roberto and Peter not only as individuals but as friends.

“We’re just two New York guys,” Peter said. “We love life. We love food and travel. We love people.”

Any proceeds from the project will go to various Italian charities responding to the crisis of COVID-19.

The film and other related materials can be found at the “In Bocca” website where links to the aforementioned charities can be found.

Published on La Cucina Italiana: https://www.lacucinaitaliana.com/trends/news/rare-italian-cookbooks-resurface-for-a-good-cause

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