Obituaries

Giuliano Bugialli, champion of Italian cuisine, dies at 88

Giuliano Bugialli, who evangelized for traditional Italian cuisine with authoritative cookbooks and culinary schools that taught future chefs and the occasional celebrity how to prepare its classic dishes, died April 26 in Viareggio, Italy. He was 88.

His family announced his death in a statement. No cause was given.

Mr. Bugialli spurred a new interest in the food of Italy with his cooking schools and then, in 1977, with his book “The Fine Art of Italian Cooking,” which has been reissued several times and is regarded as a standard in the field.

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It was a time when French cuisine was being celebrated. Mr. Bugialli made the argument that Italian cooking also deserved to be taken seriously, beginning with the understanding that it varies by region — his book, he acknowledged, “starts with a Tuscan, even a Florentine, point of view,” reflecting his birthplace — and that it is not what many Americans assume.

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“Tomatoes and garlic!” he told The Washington Post in 1978. “We don’t make every meal with them. In Florence we don’t even use tomatoes and garlic very much.”

Mr. Bugialli wasn’t interested in some Italian version of nouvelle cuisine; in fact, he mocked the idea of it.

“It makes me laugh,” he told The Chicago Tribune in 1985. “There is really nothing new. Besides, we cannot forget our own roots.”

For “The Fine Art of Italian Cooking,” Mr. Bugialli took a deep dive into the history of various dishes. He examined cookbook manuscripts going back to the 1300s and traced the dissemination of those early recipes throughout Europe.

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“There are many dishes we now do not consider Italian that probably originated there,” he wrote, “or at least we can say they are present in 16th-century Italian cookbooks. These include cherry soup, which we now associate with Hungary; turtle soup, now thought of as English and American; fruit pies, again English and American; stuffed cabbage, Eastern European, and so many dishes now thought to be French that it is not possible to list them.”

His book, his cooking schools, and his traveling cooking seminars generated so much interest that they may have helped alter the culinary supply-and-demand chain.

“Discussion of ingredients has required revisions,” he wrote in the preface to the second edition of “The Fine Art of Italian Cooking,” published in 1990. “Olive oil availability has changed drastically, for both gastronomic and health reasons; extra-virgin olive oil has changed from an esoteric term to a household phrase. Pancetta, porcini mushrooms, a great variety of Italian cheeses, fresh herbs, radicchio, are all so generally available that one need no longer suggest substitutions.”

Mr. Bugialli (boo-JYA-lee) was born Jan. 7, 1931, in Florence. Though he extolled the virtues of traditional recipes lovingly prepared, it was not because his mother, Clara, logged a lot of time laboring over a stove. She was a fashion reporter.

“She was one of the first liberated women,” he said. “She hated the kitchen.” (The dedication to his first book reads: “To my mother. Who was the worst cook in the family. But the best everything else.”)

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His father, Anselmo, who was in the wine business, did cook a bit, and a grandmother and two aunts who lived with his family were also enthusiastic cooks.

“I was lucky to be born in a family that takes really seriously what is eaten,” he said. Eventually he started preparing some family meals himself.

He studied business at the University of Florence and languages at the University of Rome. In the late 1960s he was teaching Italian to American students in Florence when the food he prepared for end-of-the-semester parties began attracting notice. In 1972 he taught his first cooking class in Florence.

That fall he moved to New York to teach Italian at the Dalton School, and again his cooking for extracurricular gatherings drew attention. He was soon teaching cooking classes in New York as well.

Mr. Bugialli thought of himself not as a chef but as a food writer, historian, and teacher. “I would never own a restaurant — too depressing,” he told the Copley News Service in 2007. “As a chef you have to compromise, cook what others want. I want to cook what I want.”

He leaves a brother, Sandro.