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Photo: Kate Whitaker

Like a lot of other food writers and editors in New York City, I begged, borrowed and/or stole for a reservation at Carbone this week, the new Italian hot spot from Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone. The place is causing the usual hand-wringing amongst the fooderati, with raves for red-sauce-joint authenticity and complaints about the pricing — especially the 50 bills you’ll be set back if you order the veal parm. I think Carbone nails the Italian-American mid-20th Century vibe, adds contemporary flourishes and offers a menu with a lot of highlights. And not to brag about my bona fides, but as a guy raised on Long Island in an Italian-American household, I know more than most of my food-writing peers about meatballs, pasta and breadsticks.

I mention this because Italian food, which is always high on the radar of American eaters, somehow seems to be having what these aforementioned food writers might call “a moment.” Mario Batali guest-edited the April issue of Food & Wine, Italian chefs are hosting high-profile events (one of our fave chefs Mark Ladner’s Abruzzese Style Italian BBQ, for example, is part of Heritage Radio Network’s salon series later this month), and some of the biggest spring restaurant openings in NYC (Carbone) and LA (Chi Spacca) are Italian. So we figure it’s a good time to brush up on Italian, make your own gnudi and hone those artichoke preparations — starting with this batch of stories, recipes and more. Mangia!