cover image Ciao Italia

Ciao Italia

Mary Ann Esposito. Morrow Cookbooks, $22 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-688-10317-0

The host of the PBS series Ciao Italia makes this companion volume reflect her dual roles as worldly-wise TV cooking teacher and grateful granddaughter of Italian immigrants. She concentrates equally on technique and history, in sections on preparation (stocking a pantry, making pasta) and on `` trademark '' foods (Parmigiano-Reggiano, Balsamic vinegar). Ever filial, she emphasizes straightforward family fare, like polenta con formaggio e verdure (polenta with cheese and vegetables) and minestra con panno sotto (literally, soup with bread under it). Even more complicated dishes--e.g., chicken and rabbit with juniper berries--could seemingly be prepared by a grandmother at an old wooden kitchen table to the strains of Enrico Caruso. Recipe instructions are complete but not wordy; recipe ``stories,'' like that of picking up a piece of bread fallen to the floor and kissing it to ward off germs, add to the book's immigrant sensibility. A full and focused, if not dazzling work. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Sept.)