Ciao Italia at Cotton
Mary Ann Esposito celebrates 20 years on air and a new book
By Linda A. Thompson-Odum firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s the longest-running television cooking show? Here’s a hint: It stars a New Hampshire resident and will soon mark its 20th anniversary on the air.
The answer is Ciao Italia with Mary Ann Esposito, and the star will celebrate her show’s milestone and the release of her new cookbook at Cotton in Manchester on Friday, Nov. 13.
“I met Mary Ann many years ago when I was at the Canterbury Shaker Village and I have been to some of her events,” Cotton owner and chef Jeffery Paige said. He had tried in the past to get her to the restaurant for a book signing, but it never came about. “Then I heard about this new one and we were able to work it out.”
For the evening, Paige will offer a specials menu of dishes from Esposito’s new book, Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites. Some of the highlights include Tuscan Chicken Liver Paté with Crostini, Roasted Beet and Orange Salad, Mushroom Ragu over Fresh Fettuccine, and Pistachio-Dusted Pork Chop with Potato Casserole and Mixed Sweet Pepper Casserole. The dessert selections include Pumpkin Spice Gelato Pie with Butterscotch Sauce.
Everything will be a la carte, so guests may order all of Esposito’s dishes or mix and match them with Cotton’s regular menu.
Esposito will be there from 5 to 9 p.m. to autograph her cookbook and visit with customers. The book will be available for purchase, and 100 percent of the profits will go to the Kids’ Café at the Manchester Salvation Army, which provides a warm dinner and evening activities for kids four nights a week, 48 weeks a year. The average nightly attendance is 116 children. A portion of the night’s food and beverages sales will also be donated to the program.
“There are so many good causes out there. We picked one dear to our hearts. The kids are the future, and for some this is the only hot meal of the day they will get. It’s all volunteers and I’ve worked over there a couple of times. It’s a positive environment,” Paige said.
Esposito said her new cookbook was “written for the times we are in now. Each recipe only has five ingredients, excluding salt and pepper. It plays on the principles of Italian food. Less is more. Quality is better than quantity. These are recipes I thought Italians would use in their own kitchens, and favorites from home.”
Ciao Italia with Mary Ann Esposito entered American homes in 1989. Esposito, who has lived in New Hampshire for more than 30 years, said the whole thing started “on a wing and a prayer.” Back then she had a catering business, and was writing a cookbook and teaching. “My husband suggested I ask the local public television station if they wanted a local cooking show.”
Raised in an Italian household, Esposito said the subject of Italian food is vast and can cover a lifetime. With her televisions show and cookbooks (she’s written 11 so far) she said her goal is “to try to focus on tradition and keep the old traditions alive.”
For Paige, this event is also a celebration of Cotton’s ninth birthday. He pointed out that it was a great opportunity to get your favorite food-lover a Christmas or holiday gift.
“I’m a huge fan of Italian food,” Paige said. “I’ve been to Italy a couple of times and often thought if I opened another restaurant, it would focus on Italian food. I love the simplicity and the freshness of it.”
As for Esposito, Paige said, “She’s a great teacher. And she stays true to what I think of as Italian food. She’s not mucking things up.”