Too many restaurant cookbooks make promises that they can't keep. You pick them up after a magical evening in a beloved dining room, a night when you had a meal that redefined your ideas of what great food looks and tastes like. The book has stories from the kitchen and photos of the exact thing you were eating -- there it is, look at it -- and then, the book tells you a lie, in the form of a recipe. It suggests that you, too, can make the roast chicken or suckling pig or ricotta gnocchi that's been haunting your dreams since the moment it was delivered to your table. Perhaps there are home cooks out there so well-trained and well-equipped that they can make this fantasy a reality. But if you're like me, here's the cold, hard truth: When you want that exact roast chicken again, you'll need to make another reservation.

In Bottega, a collection of striking Italian recipes from Michael Chiarello's Yountville institution, the chef addresses this issue head-on: "Every recipe is written to lead the home cook step by step through making the dish just as it appears on the restaurant table." But then there's a refreshing caveat, in the form of a challenge: "If you want to make a dish Bottega style, get your game on. You can forget about sipping Champagne while you lean against the counter and occasionally stir." When you see what's in store for you if you accept, you won't hesitate to try.