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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon January 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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 entrée 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.
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on March 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was so excited to receive this book that I didn't wait very long to start cooking. First of all, I really enjoy the family stories that Mary Ann writes. I felt so connected that it invited me to cook these classic meals.

As I flipped the pages, I began to mark the recipes of the pictures that looked delicious. My family was anxiously waiting for the first attempt.

I have put together a video with pictures of the 12 recipes that I tried. In the video I only show the meal and page so here are the notes to each one of them. They appear in the order cooked.

- Spinach Pasta: Very easy to make. Very pretty color and delicious. The picture shows different shapes of pasta. I hope it is clear on how much it yields. I set the book just behind it to have a perspective on size.

- Cheese cylinders: Probably my favorite antipasti ever! They were absolutely delicious. The flavor of the marinated beans combines so perfectly with the cheese. I have to say that the amount is a bit too big for one. Teen daughter and I shared one. Another side note is that the recipe is not written correctly. It states that you need 2 ½ cups of cheese, then use ½ cup to make the first cheese cylinder. After that it says: "make 5 more". The total should make 6 cylinders, uh? I know it's not a big deal but you need to be sure you have the right amount of cheese. I was afraid to burn the cheese so I took it off the skillet a bit too soon. I'll brown it a bit more next time.

- WW Spaghetti with tuna: Nice and filling. The recipe calls for 4 oz of pasta per person. That's too much for us. Most of us in our family can only eat 2 oz and even my husband only eats 3 oz if the pasta is our main dish. The flavor is very good though.

- Frittata: Very simple and easy to make. I did not flip it over like she recommends, but broil the top in the oven. I added some sausage to make a hearty brunch. It was delicious.

- White Sauce: Very basic. You can play with it a lot to enhance flavor. I really liked it. I mixed it with other pastas, shredded chicken, and made a terrific lunch with garlic bread.

- Baked Ziti: The flavor of the meatballs is the best part of it. As the picture shows, the yield of sauce does not seem to be accurate. The book picture shows way more sauce than what I ended up with. It was delicious but again, I ended up with leftover pasta which made a next day lunch (I added more sauce).

- Russian Salad: Very pretty and tasty. Simple to make. Maybe the hardest part is to guess how much salt and pepper you want! Very good and very appealing to the eye.

- Fritters: Tasty and simple: The picture shows half of the recipe.

- Hazelnut Cookies: It tastes more like a butter cookie than anything else. This recipe was a bit off in the amount of cookies and instructions. It states that you should put the cookies ½ inch apart. Some of them I put to almost 1 inch and they melted together (you can see in the picture that some of them look almost square). Also, it says to use a teaspoon and that you would end up with 2 ½ dozen cookies. I used a teaspoon scooper and ended up with 47 cookies! Next time I probably would add some flavoring like chocolate hazelnut extract. Oh and the recipe does not call for salt. It needs it.

- Lamb stew: I am always looking for ways to cook lamb since we buy a whole lamb every year. This meal was very good maybe a bit lemony to eat by itself. We ended up pouring it on top of rice. Now it was good. I wish they had some kind of advice of how to combine some of their meals for the average non-Italian. :)

Overall, I think this book has a few hiccups in the writing part but the recipes taste pretty good. As you cook and bake, you might end up adjusting according to your family needs. It is fun to try new things and my family really enjoyed the different flavors. I hope this review is helpful.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Mary Ann Esposito describes herself as "both a traditionalist and a minimalist" so it's nbot surprising that this cookbook is filled with traditional Italian family recipes prepared with a minimum of fuss and "gourmetization." There are ask quite distinctive recipes here such as Baked Sardinian Bread and Cheese Soup (a Sardinian version of panzanella, a classic Italian peasant dish), Molded Fava Bean and Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese salad, Roasted Sea Bass with Fennel, Oranges and Olives and more, but I found myself drawn to the more basic and familiar Italian dishes: Sicilian meatballs, Classic Risotto Milanese, Lasagna Verde Bolognese, Neopolitan style steak, and a wonderful recipe from her grandmother, Nonna Saponto's Egg Plant Rolls, which is a nice variation of eggplant parmesan. Esposito, the dust jacket tells us, is the host of America's longest running cooking show and she has written a dozen cookbooks, so you can be sure you are getting recipes from an experienced hand, who knows her way around Italian cooking. This is an important addition to my already overflowing collection of Italian cookbooks.
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on March 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Caio Italia is a robust books with more than 200 treasured recipes from several generations of Italian cooks. The author has many appealing recipes which suit all tastes from vegetarian to meat style dishes. This cookbook is chock full of appetizers, desserts, and main courses as well as salads and fruit dishes.

In particular the Red Pepper boats, Spinach Pizza Rolls and Lasagne Verde Bologna Style stood out as recipes I would enjoy making.

The only problem I had with this cookbooks, was that I didn't care for the format. I didn't like the ingredients being in the margins, as I felt this was difficult to use and read and made the ingredients look like captions. I also felt that for such a large book there could've been more pictures.

This is a nice cookbook, that I will enjoy exploring again and again.
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on December 18, 2014
Was hoping for many recipes that she does on her show but did not find enough. Plus there were not enough pictures to see the final meal. She is a great cook and I would have appreciated more of her talent in this book.
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VINE VOICEon April 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"You may have the universe if I may have Italy." - Giuseppe Verdi's Attila

Sharing more than 200 Italian dishes from antipasto to zuppa, so opens Mary Ann Esposito's newest cookbook, "Ciao Italia Family Classics."

You can peruse the table of contents using Amazon's "Click to Look Inside" feature yourself but rest assured this book covers the traditional dishes and, with a gentle hand, offers how-to steps on buying, preparing and serving these classic meals. Between the recipes you'll find essays -- tomatoes, balsamic vinegar (La Ca' dal Non) and "The Art of Getting By" -- written as if ruminated over an outdoor café table.

I found inspiration in "Nonna Saporito's Eggplant Rolls" (page 306), which illustrates a delicious (and healthier) approach to a vegetable often unceremoniously stuffed with cheese and fried.

It is worth noting that St. Martin's Press (production manager Adriana Coada and designer Kathryn Parise) as well as photographer John Hession deliver Esposito's recipes with flawless execution. The layout and photographs are aesthetically pleasing but do not distract from the book's functionality. Ingredients appear in bold type and are separated from the instructions. More importantly, nearly all recipes have the ingredients appear on a single page, so the book can be left open on a kitchen counter during preparation. "Wedding Soup" (page 81) is one of the exceptions. The ingredients for the meatballs, a component of the soup itself, extend to a second page.

The book is every bit as attractive on a coffee table. There is an art to food photography, especially in conveying a mouth-watering sensation with common ingredients. I'd argue it is much easier to make a Lobster Thermidor attractive than "Chuck Shoulder, Spinach, and Carrot Casserole" (page 259) and "Roasted Carrot and Beet Salad" (page 359). Yet, after looking at both of those photographs I felt a renewed interest in planting seeds, so I could bring those dishes from the garden to the table.

I've not had the pleasure of reading Esposito's other cookbooks but I plan to seek them out. I chose to review this book as part of the Amazon Vine program because I have an affinity for cookbooks, especially those as outstanding as Ciao Italia Family Classics: More than 200 Treasured Recipes from 3 Generations of Italian Cooks

Rating: Five stars
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VINE VOICEon January 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a very well thought out cookbook with engaging nuggets of information, beautiful pictures and, most importantly, some scrumptious recipes!

I have been using this cookbook to make a variety of dishes for the past month. I have made everything from alphabet soup to pasta with cherry tomato sauce and pizza margarita! The recipes are delicious and refreshingly uncomplicated* I also enjoyed the chatty bits where the author shares her family history as it relates to subsequent sections of the book. Those segments are educational and endearing.

The pictures scattered about in the book are beautiful and perfectly in tone with the theme of the book. They inspire the reader to attempt the dish. (I don't' know how many times I have glimpsed a picture of some finely crafted creation and thought, "way beyond my skill set.")

I imagine this book will appeal to anyone interested in relatively simple Italian dishes. There is something here for everyone from novice chefs to kitchen wizards. A side note - I am a vegetarian and there were plenty of dishes here to make this book worth the money.

A top notch effort - Highly Recommend.

*I ordered and reviewed The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook: 2,000 Recipes from 20 Years of America's Most Trusted Cooking Magazine immediately prior to picking this recipe book up. Cook's Illustrated is a wonderful recipe book but it is as close as you get to chemistry in cooking, each step is broken down and there is exactitude in every element. Ms. Esposito gives us much more leeway here to trust both our palate and our common sense.
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VINE VOICEon March 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I am excited to be cooking out of this book. I've only had one other cookbook by this author;that one was much smaller, colorless, and had papery pages. This cookbook has bright, glossy pages and color photos of most of the recipes. It is huge! I feel like I have a nice comprehensive Italian cookbook from which to cook.

The chapters cover all courses and the proteins are divided up. There is a section for how to have an Italian pantry.

Interspersed throughout the book are sections regarding various topics such as: Frittatas, tomato paste, capers, Italian parties, all about flour and lovely stories that make you want to be an Italian.

The recipes themselves are interesting and accessible. I especially like that the Italian translation in under each title.

I made the Ricotta and Zucchini Gnocchi from scratch. I had never made it from scratch before, and it turned out just like hers. The instructions were written as if she was standing there beside me. Though the ingredient list was simple, it turned out delicious!

Excellent cookbook!
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VINE VOICEon March 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Mary Ann Esposito has a show on PBS and includes here over 200 of her favorite classic family recipes.

It's a very complete cookbook, starting with what pantry basic you should keep on hand. There are recipes for everything from Soups, and Pizzas to Pasta and Meat, and salads and of course, desserts.

I tried a few recipes from the book, Nonna Saporita's Eggplant Rolls and Roasted Carrot and Beet Salad. Both were easy and very good. The only thing I didn't like is that not all the recipes have pictures. Other then that, I found this to be a good cookbook with many more recipes I'm planning to make. Recommended!
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VINE VOICEon February 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Mary Ann Esposito's Ciao Italia Family Classics is a lovely cookbook with many interesting recipes--some that I have never seen before, as well as some more standard Italian recipes. The directions are straightforward and most recipes are blessedly uncomplicated. The photos are inspiring and not intimidating. On the whole, this cookbook will work for most chefs who enjoy being in the kitchen. This cookbook will be a lovely addition to your cookbook collection.
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