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The Wedding Officer by Anthony Capella

“The trouble with eating Italian food is that 5 or 6 days later you’re hungry again.” ~ George Miller, British writer

The Wedding Officer by Anthony Capella is an affirmation of life, love, and good food.  The setting is WWII  occupied Italy.   The British Army is in Naples and  James Gould, a young naive British officer, is assigned to prevent weddings between the lonely British soldiers and the young Italian women desperately trying to survive the war.  James’ very proper and restrained existence is set upside down by the fiery young woman, Livia Pertini, he hires as the British officers’ cook.

From the Publisher

In the luscious tradition of Chocolat and Corelli’s Mandolin, acclaimed novelist Anthony Capella brings us a tale of war-torn Europe—and the sumptuous cuisine that sparked renewed hope, as well as an unexpected romance, for a young Italian widow and a British Army captain.
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Livia Pertini is renowned for her cooking at a local osteria and has just settled into married life when the atrocities of World War II destroy the only sense of home she has ever known. Receiving the harrowing news that her husband has been killed in action, the beautiful culinary master wonders how she will survive.

Captain James Gould arrives in Naples amid rubble and starvation, determined to stamp out the flourishing black market and restore order to a land whose language he speaks fluently but whose culture he naively misunderstands. In a time and place marked by deprivation, he hires Livia as a cook—and soon discovers the succulence of her magnificent dishes, with ingredients procured as if by magic. He soon hungers not only for her feasts but also for her love. But one of his duties is to serve as the “wedding officer,” the man assigned to deny permission for marriage to British soldiers and their sultry Italian girlfriends. His seduction by Livia goes against everything he believes in, yet he is about to learn that passion is also the most thrilling hunger to feed.

Book Club Party Ideas

Italian food is my favorite cuisine.  I love that the meals are served in separate courses so each dish can be savored and appreciated.   This is  the way meals are meant to be eaten:  with appreciation and joy (con apprezzamento!)  And, the party centers around the big table.

wine, flowers

As Livia prepares her first full meal for the British,  she deems the kitchen table “not big enough,” and reclaims the “vast dining table” as a dining table.  (James and the other British personnel were using it as a work table.)   Livia readied the dining table for the meal, by placing “a jug of water, a vial of (olive) oil, a dish of salt, a vase of fresh blossoms” and two jugs of wine on it.  I covered my table with a white table cloth and recreated Livia’s table.  I also placed tapers in empty chianti bottles.


I wanted to softly play Italian mandolin and guitar music as everyone was seated at the table and I found Angelo Petisi’s Dinner In Italy.

Book Club Menu

Livia’s homemade limoncello was enjoyed at her family’s village osteria (tavern), so as family and friends gathered for Amy’s birthday, I served chilled limoncello (not homemade) as an aperitif while dinner was being prepared. Limoncello is made from the rinds of Sorrento and Amalfi coast lemons. I’ve never had the pleasure of sipping limoncello before Amy’s birthday feast. What a wondrous drink! Be sure to chill and store limoncello in your freezer

lemon drink

Thankfully, for that first meal Livia prepared for James and his fellow officers, she ignored James’ lunch request for “plenty of meat properly cooked through, tomatoes preferably not cooked at all, bread, gravy …  some butter, and no garlic or peperoncino.”   Livia also made sure everyone was seated at the table before she served the food.

I recreated that meal plus added an appetizer course of antipasto.  In Italy, the meal usually consists of four courses:  Antipasto, First Course, Second Course and Dessert, and each course is served separately to be eaten slowly, savored and appreciated.  I made sure all my guests were seated and as I presented each course, the oooh’s and aaaaah’s were music to my ears.  I could image the sounds of appreciation  from the British officers as Livia presented each of her artfully crafted  courses.

Antipasto – Naples Antipasto Tray of Cured Meats, Cheeses, Olives and Tomatoes

Olive, italian meats

Rosemary Bread,  nice crusty loaf, brushed with olive oil and fresh sprigs of rosemary, is placed on the table.

Italian bread, fresh herbs

First Course – Fettuccine with Fresh Herb Tomato Sauce

noodles, tomato sauce

And, for the Second Course, James’ favorite dish prepared by Livia, Eggplant Parmesan (Melanzane all Parmigiano)

Italian recipes, tomato sauce

Dessert –  Rosemary Baked Pears in Honey Sauce

Rose, baked pears, candle

I concluded this Neapolitan meal with coffee and an Italian hazelnut liqueur.  I brewed the Italian Roast from Starbucks which smelled wonderful as it brewed and tasted delicious.

Starbucks Italian roast coffee

Book Club Resources

Ratings & Reviews

My Rating:  4 stars  Reserved James meets fiery Livia who awakens James passions as well as his taste buds.

  • “Capella again mingles amore with alimenti in this tale of a British officer who develops an appetite for all things Italian….  prose becomes transcendent when he pours his heart into telling the story of Italian food.”— Kirkus ReviewsReviews
  • “Capella’s vividly sensuous command of the arts of both food and romance will attract readers.”  Booklist

Discussion Questions

  1. James’ job was to regulate and dissuade the marriages between British soldiers and their Italian girlfriends.  Why did the British military think it important to discourage these marriages?
  2. Discuss the differences between James’ English culture and Livia’s Italian culture, and how those differences are reflected in James and Livia’s personalities.  Give examples.
  3. Why do you think Livia was so drawn to communism?  What of its teachings appealed to her.
  4. Did you find the chemistry between James and Livia believable?   What about the novel’s ending?  Why or why not?
  5. What do you think of Livia’s decision in regards to Alberto?  Did she really have a choice?  Why did she acquiesce to his demands?


Anthony Capella was born in Uganda and educated at St. Peter’s College Oxford.  He has written three other novels (at time of of post), The Love of Food, The Various Flavours of Coffee, and The Empress of Ice Cream, in addition to The Wedding Officer.   Read more on Anthony Capella at  official website

Other Works by Author

The Love of Food by Anthony Capella The Various Flavors of Coffee by Anthony Capella

If you enjoyed The Wedding Officer by Anthony Capella, you’ll love these too!

Chocolat by Joanne Harris Colrelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi

Check out the link for some interesting photos of The Mount Vesuvius Eruption of 1944.

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