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Gourmet Pastas and Sauces on-line

italian cooking shows
the tasty and tasteless

by Laura Pazzaglia
(return to food)

Italian cooking is the TV cooking show darling with nine shows on the air! There is only so much time to throw something together for your firends and family so you'll want to make the best use of what you've got. Just for you, we've watched them all (almost) and would like to introduce you to our favorite show, a few where you can't go wrong and one that isn't worth your time. Some of's readers also had something to say on the subject -- be sure to tell us what you think in the Italian Food & Cooking Forum.

Check each show's website for their time and location.

Molto Mario (Food Network)


Four Spoons
Mario Batali, whose original career path had him studying Spanish theater, took his first bit of culinary training at Le Cordon Bleu in London, from which he withdrew immediately due to a "lack of interest." An apprenticeship with London's legendary Marco Pierre White and three years of cooking and learning in the Northern Italian village of Borgo Capanne, population 100, taught him the needed skills to return to his native US. He owns and co-owns six restaurants, has written three books and hosts three TV cooking shows.

We find Mario in his studio kitchen with three different guests asking him questions about what he's cooking. "Mario, what's Mozzarella di Bufala?, Why do you add salt to the pasta water?" Each episode is packed with information and is organized by Italian Region, or theme. Bonnie, a freqent participant in the forums, says "I find all of Mario Batali's shows really great. I really love to cook and good thing, my husband loves to eat." This show is both educational and entertaining and it merits our top rating.

Nick Stellino's Family Kitchen (PBS)


Three Spoons
Nick Stellino grew up in Sicily and came to the United States in 1975. In 1991, he decided to leave his lucrative career as a Wall Street stockbroker in order to follow his dream of becoming a chef. He started his culinary career as a dishwasher. Over time, he apprenticed with the best Italian chefs in America, including Celestine Drago at Drago. Wanting to share his enthusiasm for Italian cooking with more people, he decided to start his own show and has written six books.

In each 30 minute program, Nick demonstrates two traditional Italian recipes in their entirety, step by step. He also shares useful tips for preparation, substitutions and presentation, along with stories that recall the family kitchen of his childhood. A reader of our website in San Francisco adds "I like how he suggests some easier to find ingredients (where would you find pancetta if you lived in a small rural Southern town of 300 people for example?) and he gives a lot of leeway with his recipes, always stressing the point that every cook brings a little of him or herself to the cooking process." It's hard to miss this host's Italian accent and sense of humor.

Mario Eats Italy (Food Network)


Three Spoons
Mario takes his show out of the kitchen and into the Italian countryside. Joined by travelling partner and student Steve Rooney, Mario winds his way from north to south, from balsamico to bruschetta, sharing his passion for Italy and its abundant artisanal food and table-related traditions.

This show focuses more on Italian table culture than making dinner - however, you'll find several recipes in this show too! This show does a fantastic job of explaining Italian culture to the viewing audience and's founders have it on their "must-see" list. One reader of told us that, "it's like a mini travel show, he talks about the region that he's visiting and why that food is so prominent in that area." This kooky food comedy entertains while it educates.

Lidia's Italian American Kitchen (PBS)


Three Spoons
Lidia Bastianich, came to the United States when she was 12 years old and opened her first restaurant at 24. Lidia is now the co-owner of Felidia and Becco restaurants in New York and Lidia's in Kansas City and Pittsburgh. She also has two sauce lines and was previously the host of Lidia's Italian Table (a TV show that is no longer on the air).

The show is held in her real-life kitchen where she has a wood-burning oven (with rotisserie attachment!) She cooks and tells stories (often of her kids and family), pausing to show you a particular technique or shortcut. She'll also describe how the original Italian recipe was and why it was adapted as it was - for example, the easy access to "meat" and milk products meant that Italian American cooking uses lots of both! While some may find her story-telling distracting, others (like myself) find it very reminiscent of sitting in the kitchen and discussing life with an Italian mom. Bonnie notes that "Lidia always seems to choose wine that matches the food, something I find very helpful, because I don't drink wine often". A reader from San Francisco adds, "I love it when she brings her various family members on the show to help out, or just to eat the finished product."

Everyday Italian (Food Network)


Two 3/4 Spoons
Giada De Laurentiis worked in a variety of Los Angeles restaurants, including Wolfgang Puck's Spago, before starting her own business as a private chef and caterer in Los Angeles. De Laurentis cooks about three dishes per episode. She shows her viewers how to cook both traditional and updated Italian favorites by lowering the fat content. Each episode ends with a party at her house and everyone munching what she has just cooked.

The show opens with De Lauretiis shopping in Los Angeles Italian delis and a brief introduction to set the mood for the episode (she's cross-legged on the couch before the "Comfort Food" episode and in a pary dress for the "Cocktail Party" episode). Her informal and energetic style along with her clear cooking direction would have earned her three spoons had she been more consistent in distinguishing between which recipes she has modified and which are traditionally Italian.

Ciao America with Mario Batali (Food Network)


Two Spoons
Mario Batali visits Italian American centers, and not so Italian ones, to find the Italian American tradition in practice. We see him shopping in Italian American stores, speaking to the owners, going to someone's house to be shown how to make a meal by the resident (and eat it with their family). Batali, as in his other shows, does a fantastic job of educating the viewers about the difference between Italian and Italian American cooking.

He focuses on Italian American traditions rather than cooking. Faithful Batali fans can tell he's holding something back-- particularly in the BBQ Chicken Pizza episode. By not telling us what's really on his mind our favorite cook earns only two spoons for this show.

Michael Chiarello's Napa - Casual Cooking (PBS)


Two Spoons
Of Southern Italian Heritage, but born and raised in central California, Michael Chiarello began apprenticing in restaurants at age 14 and graduated from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, in 1982. He is the owner of the specialty food store Napa Style. Previously he was the host of "Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello". This show will bring you into Michael's home kitchen, fitted with a custom wood burning oven, making the foods he cooks for, and sometimes with, his friends and family. He also takes his viewers on field trips in Napa Valley.

Although not strictly Italian, this show deserves some attention because many of Michael's recipes are inspired by his Southern Italian heritage and on the very Italian philosophy of using what's in season. This show focuses on California Cooking, which is the Mediterranean kitchen with a low-fat twist. Unfortunately, he peppers his cooking lessons with mispronounced Italian - the one thing he shouldn't be teaching - but his recipes are worth the cringe.

Cucina Sicilia (PBS)


One Spoon
The hosts, Damian Mondola and Johnny Carrabba, are founders of Carabba's Italian Grill in Huston, Texas. They previously hosted Cucina Amore (a TV show that is no longer on the air).The premise of this 30 minute show is that the hosts will share all their Sicilian cooking secrets and teach the viewer to make traditional Sicilian dishes. This show definitely has a home-made atmosphere to it and the lovable hosts-- with their Texan drawl-- that you wouldn't mind having as neighbors.

Unfortunately, their recipes are far from traditional Italian fare. Their "Elephant Ear-sized Veal Chops" is miles away from Sicilian peasant food and much closer to the old adage "Everything is bigger in Texas". This show doesn't appeal to us at all and that the hosts are doing a great disservice to the public by marketing this show as traditional Sicilian cooking. "Cucina Sicilia" earns's worst rating - one paltry wooden spoon.

Italian Cooking and Living (Local NY, coming soon to: Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco Bay Area)

(we haven not seen this show)
Host Paolo Villoresi, President of the Italian Culinary Institute of New York , reveals the cuisine and charm of different regions, cities, sights and kitchens throughout this enchanting country. Discover little-known places full of history and art in even the most popular of cities and learn how to prepare traditional dishes and regional specialties from Italian chefs and locals.

If you have seen this show share your comments on the Italian Food & Cooking Forum.

Your favorite cooking show? Molto Mario
Nick Stellino
Mario Eats Italy
Lidia's Italian American
Everyday Italian
Ciao America
Michael Chiarello's Napa
Cucina Sicilia
Italian Cooking & Living

view results

related books..

Mario Batali Simple Italian Food: Recipes from My Two Villages

Mario Batali Holiday Food : Family Recipes for the Most Festive Time of the Year

The Babbo Cookbook

Nick Stellino's Family Kitchen

Nick Stellino's Glorious Italian Cooking

Nick Stellino's Passione: Pasta, Pizza, and Panini

Nick Stellino's Cucina Amore

Mangiamo! Let's Eat

Michael Chiarello's Casual Cooking

The Tra Vigne Cookbook: Seasons in the California Wine Country

Flavored Oils: 50 Recipes for Cooking With Infused Oils

Ciao Y'All: Recipes from Cucina Amore

Ciao Sicily: Cucina Sicilia

Italian Cooking & LIving's Signature Pasta

My Holiday Table

Cooking with Olive Oil

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