Audiobook Review: Dinner at Fiorello's by Rick R. Reed

Henry Appleby has an appetite for life. As a recent high school graduate and the son of a wealthy family in one of Chicago’s affluent North Shore suburbs, his life is laid out for him. Unfortunately, though, he’s being forced to follow in the footsteps of his successful attorney father instead of living his dream of being a chef. When an opportunity comes his way to work in a real kitchen the summer after graduation, at a little Italian joint called Fiorello’s, Henry jumps at the chance, putting his future in jeopardy.

Years ago, life was a plentiful buffet for Vito Carelli. But a tragic turn of events now keeps the young chef at Fiorello’s quiet and secretive, preferring to let his amazing Italian peasant cuisine do his talking. When the two cooks meet over an open flame, sparks fly. Both need a taste of something more—something real, something true—to separate the good from the bad and find the love—and the hope—that just might be their salvation.

Listening Length: 7 hours and 11 minutes
Narrator: Joel Leslie

I had to cogitate on this one for a couple of days before I wrote my review. I wanted to come at it from the right perspective to make sure I do it justice and still make sense about what did and didn’t work for me. I came to the conclusion that I needed to look at Dinner at Fiorello’s as more of a coming of age book for Henry and a coming to terms book for Vito and not so much a romance between the two of them. And there was romance, definitely, but it wasn’t front and center to the overall story to me. Once I did that I could appreciate the story for how well it was written and narrated.

I really liked Henry from the very beginning. He’s a rich kid with, what seems like, every advantage, but he doesn’t have it easy. His mom is disconnected, his father is a selfish egotist and his best friend turns out to be a total shitheel. His father is grooming him to become a lawyer just like he is while Henry’s passion lies in the kitchen and the food he can create. He so desperately wants to explore this side of himself and he sees the summer after graduating as possibly his only chance. Then you add in the fact he hasn’t come out to his family and the kid is under a lot of pressure. I say ‘kid’ because he’s 18, but he really is a mature 18 with a pretty grounded sense of self. He didn’t read older than that though, the author balanced enough angst in there to keep his age real.

This was the strongest part of the story for me. The whole thing could have just been about Henry and I would have eaten it up. He was written and narrated so well I had the urge to befriend and protect his character from the baddies, former best friend who shall not be named, I’m looking at you here. I also celebrated his victories with him and when he found the inner strength to be true to himself I was all kinds of happy. I have to say though, I was sad for his friend too. The kid was messed up and obviously torn about his feelings, BUT, you don’t do that shit to my Henry, not cool. I also really liked the narrator’s voice for Henry, it fit perfectly and captured all the emotion without being over the top.

I’m not really sure where to go with Vito. His story is frickin’ heartbreaking and listening to it was just plain sad. I get it, his loss was overwhelming and not that far in the past so it all made sense. I could see why he’d be attracted to Henry but as the story moved on and Vito compared Henry to his former husband on more than one occasion it made me feel like Vito was really not ready for this and Vito readily admits that he isn’t. Again, that all made sense, I think I had just gotten so attached to Henry, that I wanted more for him.

The author made the city of Chicago and its surrounding areas, which I have never had the pleasure of visiting, into another character in the book. I really could visualize every setting clearly and that added to the story in a meaningful way. The narrator does a great job with the Italian accents in the story. Accents can really be a make or break for an audiobook and Joel Leslie made it seem effortless, making it easy to listen to. I really enjoyed the narration throughout, if I’m on the fence with an audiobook in the future and see that he’s narrating, I’m adding that one to the cart.

So, while I was a little torn on how I felt at the end, besides kinda sad that is, I’m glad I waited a couple of days to get my perspective straight. I think if I’d have had more time with them together when I knew Vito was all in, then the romance would have worked better for me. But, I enjoyed Henry and his story so much, I was able to let that go a little and just root for Henry and where he was going. I ended with lots of optimism for him personally even if I wasn’t completely feeling it for Henry and Vito together. I give them a cautious HFN with lots of hope because that’s what Henry wants and deserves. Vito just better appreciate what he’s got there, that’s all I have to say.

For more info on Dinner at Fiorello's and where to get your copy head over to Dreamspinner Press.

**a copy of this audiobook was provided for an honest review**

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