Dinner with Guy and Mary Ann Esposito
I spent last Friday with Mary Ann and Guy Esposito. They are just loverly people. You probably know Mary Ann from her television cooking show, Ciao Italia, the longest-running cooking program on TV — 19 years, I believe. If not, she’s written more than a dozen cookbooks, so if you don’t know about her, you might want to crawl out from underneath that rock you’ve been under. Mary Ann and Guy are just the best. And Guy, well, he’s an incredible gardener, as well as an orthopedic surgeon, among other things.
Mary Ann’s show isn’t about celebrity or pomp — it really is about cooking. Italian food for sure, but cooking. I think it does so well not only because Mary Ann is so good at what she does, talking and sauteing, but also because it feels like being in the kitchen with Nonna. What kids do that anymore?
I cook with the kids in my life, but not the way I did with my mother. Mothers (and fathers, for that matter) don’t cook anymore, except on Sundays or special occasions. Mary Ann, Lidia Bastianich, Paula Deen — they’re women of a certain age, doing the regional food of “their people.” I think kids go cuckoo for them. Rachael, Giada, Tyler, et al. are what they are and I suppose quite good at what they do, but I don’t get the same parental authority from them, which makes sense, as we’re relatively the same age.
Anyway, another digression. I wanted to take the Espositos out for lunch and talk about Guy’s garden (you’ll be able to read about it in the July/August issue of Yankee), but Mary Ann insisted I come to their house for lunch. Insisted. I called her stubborn, but she ignored me, so to her house I went and was happy to do so.
She fed us well on tomato soup (made from Guy’s garden tomatoes, which she froze last fall), quiche, and pickled vegetables (also from Guy’s garden, pickled last fall). And vanilla panna cotta, a gelatin-based custard that’s really comforting. Guy is quite a wine aficionado, so of course we had wine, a Spatlese Riesling, which was crisp and perfect with the eggy quiche and the creamy dessert. Followed by an espresso with a crema that few home “barristas” can achieve.
Guy’s seeds had just arrived from Italy, and he was like a kid at Christmas, telling me about the tomato varietals, eggplants, zucchini, peppers, basil, and on and on. As I said, you’ll learn the details about his green thumb later this year. He can’t wait to get them in the soil and under a grow light.
I had to hit the road for another appointment, but only after Mary Ann put together a bag of cookies, Easter bread (the kind with the colored egg in the center — just like her mom used to make), pesto (the basil from Guy’s garden), dried peppers (from Guy’s garden), and a recipe for bread (Guy is an avid home baker).
I was meeting girlfriends for a knitting retreat, and I told Mary Ann this. She gave me a look, clearly “A knitting weekend? You’ll never meet a good man.” Only my own mother or Nonna could get away with that.