Friday, January 27, 2012

Ciao Italia Family Classics Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: Ciao Italia Family Classics
By: Mary Ann Esposito
Publication: St. Martin’s Press, October 2011

My Star Rating: 5 stars = I Love It

My Summary Statement: High Quality Hardbound Book with Excellent Photographs and Truly Classic Recipes

I’m not of Italian descent but grew up in Connecticut with a large Italian immigrant population. We had access to Italian import grocery stores and family run restaurants were everywhere. I married an Italian American man who loves to cook so my exposure expanded and I began to cook more and more Italian “slow food” at home. When I moved to Texas last year I realized I’d taken access to these foods for granted now that I have a hard time finding high quality ingredients and imported Italian foods. I can't even find decent restaurants that make authentic type Italian food or even a decent pizza. So we're cooking slow food at home now more than ever before.

My first impression of this cookbook was one of familiarity, because it is has over two dozen recipes that our family already enjoys eating at home or in favorite Italian restaurants. Now that we have the recipes we can make these at home. The other 150 recipes are new to me and I can’t wait to go through the book and try some. Esposito explains that some recipes are from her grandmothers, some are newer recipes served at gourmet restaurants in Italy and some are her own creations using classic Italian ingredients.

I want to stress the word classic that’s in the title. There is a whole chapter on pastas and another on sauces, a chapter on bread and pizza, and I’m thrilled to have a chapter on risotto. In the Introduction she mentions family dinners served in courses and eaten leisurely over multiple hours’ time. The recipes in the book are meant for this purpose, so it starts with antipasti and then goes through the courses: soup, bread/pizza, pasta and sauces, rice, fish, meat, vegetables, salads then desserts. Of course not all of us eat long meals in courses so we often take one food or two, and eat it as the whole meal (pasta, pizza, or a meat or seafood entrĂ©e with a small salad on the side). The recipes stress using high quality ingredients. Many don’t use many ingredients at all, yet these are slow food recipes and some take work (risotto and handmade pasta) or long cooking (sauces, soups). That’s just the nature of slow food, and it is worth it.

The book opens with an explanation of what a well-stocked pantry for Italian cooking should look like. The plea to use high quality ingredients and the comment about using only real cheese is made (and I agree with both as being a firm foundation for good Italian meals). There are some stories in the book and some explanations about some of the food such as telling about her visit to the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese making factory which make this an enjoyable read not just a book of recipes.

The book is hardbound and high quality. The pages are sewn into signatures which are longer lasting than binding with just glue. The pages are thick and glossy (and not see through). There are a lot of full color, full page photographs that tempt me into wanting to make everything. The ingredients are in decent sized font down the margin edge for easy reference with the directions taking up most of the page. The over 200 recipes span 450 pages which makes this a hefty book.

Mary Ann Esposito has over twenty cookbooks on the market but this is the first book of hers that I’ve read. I enjoyed Ciao Italia Family Classics so much that I am curious about her prior publications. Esposito is the host of the PBS cooking show by the same name – Ciao Italia which boasts as being the longest running cooking show on television.

I highly recommend this book for slow food cooks who want to know how to make classic Italian dishes and to learn some new twists using classic Italian food staples.

I rate this book 5 stars = I Love It.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Amazon Vine for the purpose of reviewing it on the website. I was not required to blog this review. For my blog's full disclosure statement read the link near the top of my blog's sidebar.


April said...

Thanks for the review of this;I love watching her cook. :)
This one may go on my Birthday Wish List.

Now I'm hungry!

heavy hedonist said...

Looks like a good basic Italian cookbook... if I could only own one, it would probably be Marcella says... by Marcella Hazan, but I'm an inveterate foodie.
Thanks for the review, I had seen this before and wondered about it, but reviews online are usually so brief, I hardly trouble with them.

Peace, Mari