The title is probably the best part of the novel. It's not that it was a bad novel, it was just very average. The narrator, Luciano, is reflecting back on a particular time in his life that came to define who he was. In 1498, he was a fifteen year old living in Venice, living on the streets and stealing until he catches the attention of the chef at the Doge's Palace who decides to make him an apprentice.
At this time there are all kind of rumors about a mysterious book floating around the area, and rumor has it that it is in Venice. Some say it was a spell for immortality (which is why the syphillitic Doge wants it), others believe it contains a love spell, and others believe it is the key to turning things into gold. Luciano begins to believe that there is more to his chef than immediately apparent, and blabs his suspicions to his conniving friend which naturally leads to trouble.
The political intrigue was interesting but Luciano didn't do it for me as a character. He was a mix of stupid, naive and gullible. His crush on a nun was just laughable and there wasn't much to it at all. And as much as I love food, I didn't feel like all the descriptions of food really added much to the story at all. Even the whole recipes as a code thing seemed more boring to me than anything else.
It was kind of cool though reading this after visiting Venice since I could actually picture some of the geography and the locations mentioned in my head. Parts of it were interesting but unfortunately those aren't what Newmark chose to elaborate on so while it wasn't a bad novel, it was very much similar to things that have been done but on a lesser scale.
The Doge's Palace