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Just One Taste

Author Lizzy Dent
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“I love, love, love Lizzy Dent.”—Emily Henry, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Olive Stone is about to spend four weeks in Italy with the most beautiful man she’s ever hated.


When Olive Stone and her Italian pseudo-celebrity chef father fell out fourteen years ago, annoyingly handsome Leo Ricci slipped right in as his surrogate son and sous-chef. No one is more surprised than Olive when her father wills her his beloved (and now failing) restaurant. Or that his dying wish was for Olive and Leo to complete his cookbook…together.

She’s determined to sell the restaurant. Leo is determined to convince her not to. As they embark on four weeks in Italy, traveling from Sicily to Tuscany to Liguria, they’ll test each other as often as they test recipes. But the more time Olive and Leo spend together, the more undeniable their attraction grows. Olive finds herself wondering whether selling the restaurant might be running away, and what it might be like to try Just One Taste of Leo Ricci. Because he isn’t who she expected, and this trip might reveal more about who Olive is than she’s ready for.
1

London

From behind the front window of London's most pretentious bar, I watch as my late father's restaurant, Nicky's, starts to stir for the evening shift across the street. The head chef, Leo Ricci, spins the handle to extend the black canvas awning across the eight outside tables. The little neon door sign my mother gifted my father for Christmas twenty-five years ago blinks intermittently beside the black front door. I feel a stab of deep regret and sadness. And wonder why the hell no one got the damn sign fixed.

"Here you are, madam. The whiskey is served at a precise 65.35 degrees Fahrenheit," says the sulky waiter as he serves me a double malt in cut crystal, elegantly withdrawing a stylish metal thermometer from my glass. He then slides a small bowl of smoked almonds with powdered Himalayan salt on the window bar in front of me. I paint on a smile before I briefly look up from under my baseball cap to thank him.

His mouth sags. "Oh. It's you." He's so deliciously bitchy, I laugh.

"I'm not barred, am I?" I ask, raising an eyebrow playfully. "They haven't got a mug shot of me hanging behind the bar?"

"Just don't let my manager see you," the waiter replies, shrugging with indifference. "You're publican enemy number one round here."

I chuckle as he leaves. I'm a food journalist at The London Times, a free but very widely read paper that circulates on the Underground. About three issues ago, I wrote a several-paragraphs-long hit piece targeting this place-Temp-in a story entitled "Is This Effing Satire?" I'd hated the self-consciously gimmicky idea that all drinks must be served at a particular temperature with a bespoke thermometer. So, you get your Chardonnay at 48.1 degrees, your rosé at 51.8, and your Chablis Grand Cru at 55.4. And everyone can really taste the difference, apparently.

Don't get me wrong, it is nice to do things "properly," but can we please be serious? This bar is frequented by bankers who only appreciate the quality of wine by its price. I also hated the way the proprietor, a software engineer turned bar owner, had talked down to my friend Ginny when she requested a cube of ice in her Sauv Blanc. "We are not a dive bar, darling."

"Olive!" Ginny and Kate arrive in a flurry of kisses and hugs. Ginny, an excellent interior architect with bouncy black curls, wide brown eyes, and a chic tan suit, and Kate, an ice-blond relationship therapist who exudes Scandi chic in wide-leg jeans and a designer sweatshirt.

"Why on earth did you choose this place?" Kate asks. "Didn't you call it a Tesla for oenophiles?" She drops her voice. "This is the tech-bro bar, right?"

"It's disruptive drinking for the biohack generation," I reply, mockingly serious. "Kendall Roy would love it."

"Sweet returns, bro," Kate snarls playfully.

"I hope that awful owner isn't here," Ginny says, glancing around the restaurant.

"I've not seen him. Yet," I say, tugging down my cap, just in case. Ginny eyes the cap, somewhat despairingly.

"You look . . . cute," Ginny says, touching my slouchy gray hoodie and attempting to admire the ends of my fuzzy outgrown bob. Ginny is the friend who cannot lie.

"It's grief-core," I say, laughing at her. "I look like shit, but I'm fine with it."

They pause, glancing at each other with concern.

"I'm fine! Sit, I'll explain," I say.

I wait for them to settle in their seats on either side of me, so we are three in a row, peering out the darkened window into the daylight like barn owls.

"So, I went to the estate attorney's office today and you're seriously not going to believe it," I say, pointing across the road to Nicky's, where chef Leo Ricci has taken a seat at one of the outside tables and is going through paperwork. A cute red-haired waitress with a sleeve of tattoos comes out and slides a coffee in front of him.

"Oh my goodness, Nicky's! That's why we're here?" Ginny asks, mouth open.

"He left you the restaurant?" Kate asks in breathless awe.

"He left me the restaurant," I confirm, still in shock myself.

"Do you get that hot chef with it?" Ginny asks, pointing at Leo, who at that very moment looks up in our direction. He can't possibly see us with the evening sun so low and bright in his eyes, so I indulge myself, staring as he runs his hands up through his dark hair, biceps popping as he rests them on his head for a moment before breathing out, eyes to the sky, and then returning to his paperwork.

"All of it, yes," I say, a strange sort of prickly feeling going up my spine before I pull my eyes from Leo.

My father died suddenly almost two months ago. I emerged from an underground bar and my phone sprang to life with seven missed calls and several text messages from both my father and a number I later learned was Leo Ricci's. When I saw the sheer volume of calls, I just knew. But the speed at which he went downhill was dizzying. Some run-of-the-mill infection one day, sepsis and death the next.

I feel as though I've been stuck in a state of shock, moving like a marionette through the responsibilities of being his only living relative. Go here. Sign this. Cancel that. Send this letter. Call the energy company. Call the energy company again. And again. Mum offered to help, but it felt weird having her reading through his personal effects; she'd just remarried, and Dad and she were divorced so long ago. I also felt it was right to try to protect his privacy, especially since he died alone.

Dry, sardonic humor is one way to get through the sudden death of a parent. Booze is another. I lift my whiskey to my lips and tip it back like I'm taking a shot.

"He left you Nicky's?" Kate says again.

"My god, Olive, when did you last even go in there?" Ginny says as her wine arrives, and she accepts it graciously.

"I mean, maybe ten years ago?" I say, feeling the heat of shame creeping up my neck as I say it. "Longer?"

It was definitely longer. I remember walking away and dramatically announcing I was never coming back. I was seventeen years old. That's just about fifteen years ago. I'd seen my dad since for a birthday here, a Christmas there. We messaged. But it was Mum whom I stuck with when things fell apart. She was the wounded party, leaving when she could take no more of coming second to Dad's obsession with Nicky's. I still bristle at the memory of Mum crying at the bottom of the escalators at Angel station as we stood there with our bags, heading to live with my aunt until Mum found another job and we found another home. It was hard to love him after that.

"Holy shit," says Ginny, eyes wide, face grimacing. After a long period of silence, she perks up. "But also, I mean, what an opportunity. It's yours?"

"Mine," I confirm.

"You were kind of born for this, Olive."

I sink into my seat, deflated by Ginny's misplaced excitement.

People romanticize hospitality. It often shows up in books or movies as a cutesy job for creative, homely types. It looks like freshly baked croissants in mouthwatering piles on a table covered with homemade jam in a pretty shop on a sweet high street with plenty of middle-class foot traffic. It looks like chalkboard menus and handsome staff in stiff linen aprons with leather ties, and bench seating decorated with thyme and rosemary in tiny silver pots. And always, a tired but tenacious owner who is busy-yes-but deliriously fulfilled and with plenty of time to fall in love.

What it actually looks like? Carnage. Like the scene of a crime. Bloody, sometimes. Chaos, always. Meeting the booze delivery truck at 6:30 a.m. and calling the rat guy and sneaking him in and out during lunch service. It's sticky kitchen floors and hungover chefs who are fucking the waitstaff and waitstaff who are stealing from the till. It's a mild coke habit if you're under thirty and a mild drinking problem after that. It looks like high blood pressure, heart disease, couch-surfing exhaustion. It's sixteen-hour days with no one in your life but the people you work with.

Don't get me wrong. My parents had it good for a long while. Nicky's was a classic family restaurant, a simple and easy-to-execute Italian menu with a modest but comfortable turnover. A very good turnover for a time, when my dad's TV cooking show aired. They had a rotation of competent chefs and enough staff who could steer the ship so we could go on an annual family summer holiday to Italy. A week in Sicily, staying with Dad's friend and mentor Rocco in Catania, and another week somewhere on the north Riviera with his best friend, Roger. We'd see Rapallo. Cinque Terre. Portofino. Sunshine, sunscreen, and of course, plenty of eating.

They also owned the property outright. Dad bought it long before the real estate boom in East London. And the restaurant was never just a workplace. It was our second home. I would sit at table 7 doing my homework while Mum ran the restaurant and Dad made slabs of olive focaccia in the wood-fired pizza oven. At our real home around the corner, I ate utilitarian cornflakes for breakfast, but in the evenings, I sat at the bar at Nicky's eating truffle linguine with sparkling water in a wine goblet. And my parents? They were happy. Really fucking busy. But happy. And in love.

It was pretty perfect, actually.

Until it wasn't.

"I'm going to sell it," I say. "Please don't hate me, but that building is freehold."

"Holy shit," says Ginny.

"Wait. What's freehold?" Kate asks.

"She owns the actual building as well as the business," Ginny explains, her eyes wide. "Christ, what's it's worth?"

"I'd pay a lot of tax, but still, it's a life-changing amount of money," I say, feeling my cheeks redden. I'm really that bitch with an inheritance. The one time being an only child pays out.

"You really don't want to keep it?" Ginny asks, frowning.

"The estate attorney says it's practically a teardown. I'd have to mortgage it to renovate. The turnover is terrible, so it would be hand-to-mouth paying that back. I'd have to move in upstairs to avoid it being taxed as a second home. It's complicated. Plus, there's the small but obvious problem that I've not worked in a restaurant since I was sixteen years old." I try to laugh, desperate to keep the conversation upbeat, but the girls are more subdued, nothing but a simple ha from Kate.

"I think you'd be good at it," presses Ginny. "You've worked in food for your whole adult life, Olive. It's your literal job to know what makes a good restaurant. Plus, you're very warm, when you can be bothered." She nudges me in the ribs, and I smile, nudging her back.

"I could sell it and finally help my mum out, and still have enough to buy my own home, Ginny," I say, trying to get her on board. "That I'd own. Maybe even outright."

"That would be life-changing indeed," says Kate, nodding.

"The stuff of dreams," Ginny says, wide-eyed.

"Everything would be the same, but I'd be rent-free. Living in London. Can you imagine?"

"Yeah. You can, like, keep doing the job you hate," Kate says wryly.

"But rent-free," I say. I tip my head toward Kate. "Come on."

"You do hate your job," Ginny agrees. "You spent most of the last year complaining about it. Like a shitty boyfriend you wouldn't dump." I catch the look of agreement on Kate's face and realize I've been the subject of some breakout discussions.

"But look at it this way, I'd have a lot of freedom to find something else. Maybe I'll write a novel or something?" I say wistfully, as the girls both Mm-hmm, nodding in unison. "Which leads me to the catch."

"The catch?" Kate says, straightening up.

"Oh boy," says Ginny, reaching for her wine. I pause briefly to take a sip of my whiskey.

"My dad was in the middle of writing a cookbook, and he wanted me to finish it."

"Ohhhhh," Kate says thoughtfully. "I think that's sweet."

"I didn't know he was writing one," I say, and then stare across at the Nicky's sign again. "He always wanted to, you know. More than TV, he wanted to make a cookbook that sat on everyone's shelf between The Joy of Cooking and Mastering the Art of French Cooking."

"Aw, that's really sad he never got to finish it," says Ginny. "No matter how you felt about him, Olive, you have to do it."

"I know. He was due to go to Italy for a few weeks next month to do the final push. So, the accommodation is booked and paid for and I'd just need to get the flight."

"Well, this is like the perfect way to say good-bye to him," says Ginny; then she leans in, nudging me. "Perhaps you can put some of those regrets to rest?"

I nod. So many regrets. I regret missing those last seven phone calls, for one.

"Where in Italy?"

"Back to Sicily for the first time in more than fifteen years, then somewhere in Tuscany and finally Liguria," I say.

"Oh Jesus. Can I come with?" Ginny says, clasping her hands together.

I spin the whiskey glass on the table as I analyze my feelings for the hundredth time. There are so many conflicting emotions I can't yet communicate to my friends. But the one I feel overwhelmingly right now is that I do not deserve this huge gift from my father. I feel shame at his generosity. I hardly saw him in the last ten years, tucking myself away on the other side of the river, blaming him and resenting this restaurant for the end of my parents' marriage.

I look up from my drink and across to Leo.

I should be where Leo is right now. I should have gone to culinary school just as we'd planned. Then I would have trained under my dad, preparing to eventually take over Nicky's when he was too old to descend the wine cellar stairs or too forgetful to take an order. A quiet part of me thought I'd eventually come back. The child in me also thought my dad would live forever. But he didn't.

When I walked away, Leo Ricci stepped into my place. Dad poured all that love and attention into him. They even went on holiday together, I'd learned. Leo worked beside him for nearly fifteen years, and now I'm supposed to swoop in and take the spoils? Be Leo's boss?
A PureWow Best Beach Read of the Summer
A Bookbub Buzzy New Romance to Add to Your Summer Beach Bag
A Christian Science Monitor Best Book of July
An Eater Food-Filled Beach Read for Your Summer Vacation
A PureWow Book I Can’t Wait to Read in July
 
“Follow Lizzy Dent to Italy and you will smell the oranges, feel the sunshine and taste the first perfect kiss. Just One Taste is a deliciously romantic and emotional exploration of love and loss, with Dent’s signature humor and sense of fun. Five big stars from me.”—Annabel Monaghan, national bestselling author of Same Time Next Summer
 
"Dent's cozy, slow-burn romance is a heartfelt journey through Italian cuisine and culture. Readers will delight in the rich descriptions of food and dream of a summer holiday in Italy.” —Booklist
 
“In vivid prose, Dent brings the Italian countryside to life while building a simmering attraction between her leads. Hopeless romantics looking for an armchair vacation will want to check this out.” —Publishers Weekly
 
“Just One Taste had all the things I liked so much in The Summer Job: bubbly writing, a sense of humor, a dreamy setting, and page-turning chemistry.” —Eater
 
“[A] love letter to Italy and its cuisine as much as it is a love story…Dent takes the readers on a sensual vacation to four regions of Italy as Olive and Leo absorb the sights, smells and tastes of their surroundings while mulling over what to do about the struggling restaurant and their growing feelings for each other. This pleasure-filled, delicious romance will inspire dinner res­ervations at a fave Italian place—if not a food-centered trip abroad.” —BookPage

Just One Taste takes advantage of being in Italy and will make you hungry for Italian food…A perfect beach read, that has you rooting for these two characters.” –Red Carpet Crash

[Dent’s] best novel yet... There was sizzling romantic tension, and the story really takes you on a journey, both emotionally (most tears I’ve shed reading a book this year) and literally through Italy. In fact, it’s the ultimate travel romance, with mouthwatering descriptions of Italian dishes to boot. I finished it in a day!” – New Romantics Book Club
© Kerstin Weidinger
Lizzy Dent is the author of The Summer Job, The Setup, and The Sweetest Revenge. She (mis)spent her early twenties working in Scotland in hospitality and after years travelling the world making Music TV for MTV and Channel 4, and creating digital content for Cartoon Network, the BBC and ITV, she turned to writing. She now lives in Austria with her family. View titles by Lizzy Dent

About

“I love, love, love Lizzy Dent.”—Emily Henry, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Olive Stone is about to spend four weeks in Italy with the most beautiful man she’s ever hated.


When Olive Stone and her Italian pseudo-celebrity chef father fell out fourteen years ago, annoyingly handsome Leo Ricci slipped right in as his surrogate son and sous-chef. No one is more surprised than Olive when her father wills her his beloved (and now failing) restaurant. Or that his dying wish was for Olive and Leo to complete his cookbook…together.

She’s determined to sell the restaurant. Leo is determined to convince her not to. As they embark on four weeks in Italy, traveling from Sicily to Tuscany to Liguria, they’ll test each other as often as they test recipes. But the more time Olive and Leo spend together, the more undeniable their attraction grows. Olive finds herself wondering whether selling the restaurant might be running away, and what it might be like to try Just One Taste of Leo Ricci. Because he isn’t who she expected, and this trip might reveal more about who Olive is than she’s ready for.

Excerpt

1

London

From behind the front window of London's most pretentious bar, I watch as my late father's restaurant, Nicky's, starts to stir for the evening shift across the street. The head chef, Leo Ricci, spins the handle to extend the black canvas awning across the eight outside tables. The little neon door sign my mother gifted my father for Christmas twenty-five years ago blinks intermittently beside the black front door. I feel a stab of deep regret and sadness. And wonder why the hell no one got the damn sign fixed.

"Here you are, madam. The whiskey is served at a precise 65.35 degrees Fahrenheit," says the sulky waiter as he serves me a double malt in cut crystal, elegantly withdrawing a stylish metal thermometer from my glass. He then slides a small bowl of smoked almonds with powdered Himalayan salt on the window bar in front of me. I paint on a smile before I briefly look up from under my baseball cap to thank him.

His mouth sags. "Oh. It's you." He's so deliciously bitchy, I laugh.

"I'm not barred, am I?" I ask, raising an eyebrow playfully. "They haven't got a mug shot of me hanging behind the bar?"

"Just don't let my manager see you," the waiter replies, shrugging with indifference. "You're publican enemy number one round here."

I chuckle as he leaves. I'm a food journalist at The London Times, a free but very widely read paper that circulates on the Underground. About three issues ago, I wrote a several-paragraphs-long hit piece targeting this place-Temp-in a story entitled "Is This Effing Satire?" I'd hated the self-consciously gimmicky idea that all drinks must be served at a particular temperature with a bespoke thermometer. So, you get your Chardonnay at 48.1 degrees, your rosé at 51.8, and your Chablis Grand Cru at 55.4. And everyone can really taste the difference, apparently.

Don't get me wrong, it is nice to do things "properly," but can we please be serious? This bar is frequented by bankers who only appreciate the quality of wine by its price. I also hated the way the proprietor, a software engineer turned bar owner, had talked down to my friend Ginny when she requested a cube of ice in her Sauv Blanc. "We are not a dive bar, darling."

"Olive!" Ginny and Kate arrive in a flurry of kisses and hugs. Ginny, an excellent interior architect with bouncy black curls, wide brown eyes, and a chic tan suit, and Kate, an ice-blond relationship therapist who exudes Scandi chic in wide-leg jeans and a designer sweatshirt.

"Why on earth did you choose this place?" Kate asks. "Didn't you call it a Tesla for oenophiles?" She drops her voice. "This is the tech-bro bar, right?"

"It's disruptive drinking for the biohack generation," I reply, mockingly serious. "Kendall Roy would love it."

"Sweet returns, bro," Kate snarls playfully.

"I hope that awful owner isn't here," Ginny says, glancing around the restaurant.

"I've not seen him. Yet," I say, tugging down my cap, just in case. Ginny eyes the cap, somewhat despairingly.

"You look . . . cute," Ginny says, touching my slouchy gray hoodie and attempting to admire the ends of my fuzzy outgrown bob. Ginny is the friend who cannot lie.

"It's grief-core," I say, laughing at her. "I look like shit, but I'm fine with it."

They pause, glancing at each other with concern.

"I'm fine! Sit, I'll explain," I say.

I wait for them to settle in their seats on either side of me, so we are three in a row, peering out the darkened window into the daylight like barn owls.

"So, I went to the estate attorney's office today and you're seriously not going to believe it," I say, pointing across the road to Nicky's, where chef Leo Ricci has taken a seat at one of the outside tables and is going through paperwork. A cute red-haired waitress with a sleeve of tattoos comes out and slides a coffee in front of him.

"Oh my goodness, Nicky's! That's why we're here?" Ginny asks, mouth open.

"He left you the restaurant?" Kate asks in breathless awe.

"He left me the restaurant," I confirm, still in shock myself.

"Do you get that hot chef with it?" Ginny asks, pointing at Leo, who at that very moment looks up in our direction. He can't possibly see us with the evening sun so low and bright in his eyes, so I indulge myself, staring as he runs his hands up through his dark hair, biceps popping as he rests them on his head for a moment before breathing out, eyes to the sky, and then returning to his paperwork.

"All of it, yes," I say, a strange sort of prickly feeling going up my spine before I pull my eyes from Leo.

My father died suddenly almost two months ago. I emerged from an underground bar and my phone sprang to life with seven missed calls and several text messages from both my father and a number I later learned was Leo Ricci's. When I saw the sheer volume of calls, I just knew. But the speed at which he went downhill was dizzying. Some run-of-the-mill infection one day, sepsis and death the next.

I feel as though I've been stuck in a state of shock, moving like a marionette through the responsibilities of being his only living relative. Go here. Sign this. Cancel that. Send this letter. Call the energy company. Call the energy company again. And again. Mum offered to help, but it felt weird having her reading through his personal effects; she'd just remarried, and Dad and she were divorced so long ago. I also felt it was right to try to protect his privacy, especially since he died alone.

Dry, sardonic humor is one way to get through the sudden death of a parent. Booze is another. I lift my whiskey to my lips and tip it back like I'm taking a shot.

"He left you Nicky's?" Kate says again.

"My god, Olive, when did you last even go in there?" Ginny says as her wine arrives, and she accepts it graciously.

"I mean, maybe ten years ago?" I say, feeling the heat of shame creeping up my neck as I say it. "Longer?"

It was definitely longer. I remember walking away and dramatically announcing I was never coming back. I was seventeen years old. That's just about fifteen years ago. I'd seen my dad since for a birthday here, a Christmas there. We messaged. But it was Mum whom I stuck with when things fell apart. She was the wounded party, leaving when she could take no more of coming second to Dad's obsession with Nicky's. I still bristle at the memory of Mum crying at the bottom of the escalators at Angel station as we stood there with our bags, heading to live with my aunt until Mum found another job and we found another home. It was hard to love him after that.

"Holy shit," says Ginny, eyes wide, face grimacing. After a long period of silence, she perks up. "But also, I mean, what an opportunity. It's yours?"

"Mine," I confirm.

"You were kind of born for this, Olive."

I sink into my seat, deflated by Ginny's misplaced excitement.

People romanticize hospitality. It often shows up in books or movies as a cutesy job for creative, homely types. It looks like freshly baked croissants in mouthwatering piles on a table covered with homemade jam in a pretty shop on a sweet high street with plenty of middle-class foot traffic. It looks like chalkboard menus and handsome staff in stiff linen aprons with leather ties, and bench seating decorated with thyme and rosemary in tiny silver pots. And always, a tired but tenacious owner who is busy-yes-but deliriously fulfilled and with plenty of time to fall in love.

What it actually looks like? Carnage. Like the scene of a crime. Bloody, sometimes. Chaos, always. Meeting the booze delivery truck at 6:30 a.m. and calling the rat guy and sneaking him in and out during lunch service. It's sticky kitchen floors and hungover chefs who are fucking the waitstaff and waitstaff who are stealing from the till. It's a mild coke habit if you're under thirty and a mild drinking problem after that. It looks like high blood pressure, heart disease, couch-surfing exhaustion. It's sixteen-hour days with no one in your life but the people you work with.

Don't get me wrong. My parents had it good for a long while. Nicky's was a classic family restaurant, a simple and easy-to-execute Italian menu with a modest but comfortable turnover. A very good turnover for a time, when my dad's TV cooking show aired. They had a rotation of competent chefs and enough staff who could steer the ship so we could go on an annual family summer holiday to Italy. A week in Sicily, staying with Dad's friend and mentor Rocco in Catania, and another week somewhere on the north Riviera with his best friend, Roger. We'd see Rapallo. Cinque Terre. Portofino. Sunshine, sunscreen, and of course, plenty of eating.

They also owned the property outright. Dad bought it long before the real estate boom in East London. And the restaurant was never just a workplace. It was our second home. I would sit at table 7 doing my homework while Mum ran the restaurant and Dad made slabs of olive focaccia in the wood-fired pizza oven. At our real home around the corner, I ate utilitarian cornflakes for breakfast, but in the evenings, I sat at the bar at Nicky's eating truffle linguine with sparkling water in a wine goblet. And my parents? They were happy. Really fucking busy. But happy. And in love.

It was pretty perfect, actually.

Until it wasn't.

"I'm going to sell it," I say. "Please don't hate me, but that building is freehold."

"Holy shit," says Ginny.

"Wait. What's freehold?" Kate asks.

"She owns the actual building as well as the business," Ginny explains, her eyes wide. "Christ, what's it's worth?"

"I'd pay a lot of tax, but still, it's a life-changing amount of money," I say, feeling my cheeks redden. I'm really that bitch with an inheritance. The one time being an only child pays out.

"You really don't want to keep it?" Ginny asks, frowning.

"The estate attorney says it's practically a teardown. I'd have to mortgage it to renovate. The turnover is terrible, so it would be hand-to-mouth paying that back. I'd have to move in upstairs to avoid it being taxed as a second home. It's complicated. Plus, there's the small but obvious problem that I've not worked in a restaurant since I was sixteen years old." I try to laugh, desperate to keep the conversation upbeat, but the girls are more subdued, nothing but a simple ha from Kate.

"I think you'd be good at it," presses Ginny. "You've worked in food for your whole adult life, Olive. It's your literal job to know what makes a good restaurant. Plus, you're very warm, when you can be bothered." She nudges me in the ribs, and I smile, nudging her back.

"I could sell it and finally help my mum out, and still have enough to buy my own home, Ginny," I say, trying to get her on board. "That I'd own. Maybe even outright."

"That would be life-changing indeed," says Kate, nodding.

"The stuff of dreams," Ginny says, wide-eyed.

"Everything would be the same, but I'd be rent-free. Living in London. Can you imagine?"

"Yeah. You can, like, keep doing the job you hate," Kate says wryly.

"But rent-free," I say. I tip my head toward Kate. "Come on."

"You do hate your job," Ginny agrees. "You spent most of the last year complaining about it. Like a shitty boyfriend you wouldn't dump." I catch the look of agreement on Kate's face and realize I've been the subject of some breakout discussions.

"But look at it this way, I'd have a lot of freedom to find something else. Maybe I'll write a novel or something?" I say wistfully, as the girls both Mm-hmm, nodding in unison. "Which leads me to the catch."

"The catch?" Kate says, straightening up.

"Oh boy," says Ginny, reaching for her wine. I pause briefly to take a sip of my whiskey.

"My dad was in the middle of writing a cookbook, and he wanted me to finish it."

"Ohhhhh," Kate says thoughtfully. "I think that's sweet."

"I didn't know he was writing one," I say, and then stare across at the Nicky's sign again. "He always wanted to, you know. More than TV, he wanted to make a cookbook that sat on everyone's shelf between The Joy of Cooking and Mastering the Art of French Cooking."

"Aw, that's really sad he never got to finish it," says Ginny. "No matter how you felt about him, Olive, you have to do it."

"I know. He was due to go to Italy for a few weeks next month to do the final push. So, the accommodation is booked and paid for and I'd just need to get the flight."

"Well, this is like the perfect way to say good-bye to him," says Ginny; then she leans in, nudging me. "Perhaps you can put some of those regrets to rest?"

I nod. So many regrets. I regret missing those last seven phone calls, for one.

"Where in Italy?"

"Back to Sicily for the first time in more than fifteen years, then somewhere in Tuscany and finally Liguria," I say.

"Oh Jesus. Can I come with?" Ginny says, clasping her hands together.

I spin the whiskey glass on the table as I analyze my feelings for the hundredth time. There are so many conflicting emotions I can't yet communicate to my friends. But the one I feel overwhelmingly right now is that I do not deserve this huge gift from my father. I feel shame at his generosity. I hardly saw him in the last ten years, tucking myself away on the other side of the river, blaming him and resenting this restaurant for the end of my parents' marriage.

I look up from my drink and across to Leo.

I should be where Leo is right now. I should have gone to culinary school just as we'd planned. Then I would have trained under my dad, preparing to eventually take over Nicky's when he was too old to descend the wine cellar stairs or too forgetful to take an order. A quiet part of me thought I'd eventually come back. The child in me also thought my dad would live forever. But he didn't.

When I walked away, Leo Ricci stepped into my place. Dad poured all that love and attention into him. They even went on holiday together, I'd learned. Leo worked beside him for nearly fifteen years, and now I'm supposed to swoop in and take the spoils? Be Leo's boss?

Reviews

A PureWow Best Beach Read of the Summer
A Bookbub Buzzy New Romance to Add to Your Summer Beach Bag
A Christian Science Monitor Best Book of July
An Eater Food-Filled Beach Read for Your Summer Vacation
A PureWow Book I Can’t Wait to Read in July
 
“Follow Lizzy Dent to Italy and you will smell the oranges, feel the sunshine and taste the first perfect kiss. Just One Taste is a deliciously romantic and emotional exploration of love and loss, with Dent’s signature humor and sense of fun. Five big stars from me.”—Annabel Monaghan, national bestselling author of Same Time Next Summer
 
"Dent's cozy, slow-burn romance is a heartfelt journey through Italian cuisine and culture. Readers will delight in the rich descriptions of food and dream of a summer holiday in Italy.” —Booklist
 
“In vivid prose, Dent brings the Italian countryside to life while building a simmering attraction between her leads. Hopeless romantics looking for an armchair vacation will want to check this out.” —Publishers Weekly
 
“Just One Taste had all the things I liked so much in The Summer Job: bubbly writing, a sense of humor, a dreamy setting, and page-turning chemistry.” —Eater
 
“[A] love letter to Italy and its cuisine as much as it is a love story…Dent takes the readers on a sensual vacation to four regions of Italy as Olive and Leo absorb the sights, smells and tastes of their surroundings while mulling over what to do about the struggling restaurant and their growing feelings for each other. This pleasure-filled, delicious romance will inspire dinner res­ervations at a fave Italian place—if not a food-centered trip abroad.” —BookPage

Just One Taste takes advantage of being in Italy and will make you hungry for Italian food…A perfect beach read, that has you rooting for these two characters.” –Red Carpet Crash

[Dent’s] best novel yet... There was sizzling romantic tension, and the story really takes you on a journey, both emotionally (most tears I’ve shed reading a book this year) and literally through Italy. In fact, it’s the ultimate travel romance, with mouthwatering descriptions of Italian dishes to boot. I finished it in a day!” – New Romantics Book Club

Author

© Kerstin Weidinger
Lizzy Dent is the author of The Summer Job, The Setup, and The Sweetest Revenge. She (mis)spent her early twenties working in Scotland in hospitality and after years travelling the world making Music TV for MTV and Channel 4, and creating digital content for Cartoon Network, the BBC and ITV, she turned to writing. She now lives in Austria with her family. View titles by Lizzy Dent