by Mary Ann Esposito
Ciao Italia: Bringing Italy Home, the companion guide to Ciao Italia’s 11th season on PBS, is a delightful cookbook that reads like a travel guide and a tribute to Italian cooks and their culture. Mary Ann Esposito has 10 seasons of cooking on public television and 5 cookbooks to her name, and she still manages to offer 130 new recipes presented in a culinary tour so captivating, you’ll read this cover to cover. The chapters are divided by region, and each begins with a mouthwatering tour followed by recipes that begin with stories–sometimes historical, sometimes personal, sometimes just delectable descriptions. From Tuscany you might make White Beans with Fettuccine and Sage because it sounds so delicious; from Sicily you’ll make Swordfish with Spaghetti, Tomato Sauce, and Olives because the thought of enjoying it in a Sicilian seaside community near Palermo makes you sigh; and from Emilia Romagna you’ll choose Beatrice’s Fried Mushrooms because everything Beatrice makes is “exquisite.” Packed with information, this is a perfect book for a novice cook who needs plenty of detail, but it’s also a gem for the more experienced chef because so many of Esposito’s recipes are region-specific, and therefore uncommon. Esposito shares a wealth of information about the Italian people, their culture and their cooking, and the result is that many of her recipes are interesting and unusual, such as Gorgonzola Cheese with Marmalade, Fried Sage Leaves, or Whipped Cod Venetian Style–all easy to master, impressive to serve, and absolutely divine. Esposito knows how to intrigue her television audience, and this luscious volume proves she can do it in print as well.