Maestro Martino of Como

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Martino de Rossi or Martino de Rubeis, called Martino of Como, was the most important cook of the 15th century. His book Libro de Arte Coquinaria (The Art of Cooking) (ca. 1465) is considered a landmark in Italian gastronomic literature and a historical record of the transition from medieval to renaissance cuisine.

His early career probably began in northern Italy, as he is referred to variously as both Martino di Como and Martino di Milano, but it seems likely that he spent some time in Naples as many of his recipes show the influence of Spanish cuisine and with the Catalan manuscript Libre de sent sovì, Naples having come under lasting Catalan influence after its conquest by Alfonso V of Aragon in 1442.

In Rome he served as cook to Ludovico Trevisan, Cardinal Patriarch of Aquileia, as well as to Giangiacomo Trivulzio, a Milanese condottiere (adventurer).

Little more is known about Martino but he was described by his friend Bartolomeo Sacchi (known as Platina) as "Prince of cooks from whom I learned all about cooking" in De honesta voluptate et valetudine (On Honest Pleasure and Good Health) (1474). Platina openly acknowledges in his book that most of the his recipes came from Martino whom he compared to a Greek philosopher in his ability to improvise on a culinary theme.

English translations

  • Luigi Ballerini (editor), Jeremy Parzen (translator) (2005), The Art of Cooking: The First Modern Cookery Book, University of California Press.
  • Gillian Riley (translator) (2005), Maestro Martino: Libro de Arte Coquinaria, University of California Oakland, CA ISBN 1-891788-83-3 (on CD-ROM)
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