CRANSTON — A feast for the senses was brewing at the remotely-located RI PBS studios on Thursday, June 18 when a group of energetic students from St. Mary Academy-Bay View in Riverside visited the set of the popular TV cooking show “Ciao Italia” to watch a taping and sample some delicacies.
Award winning cookbook author and culinary personality Mary Ann Esposito, who created the long-running series two decades ago, visits Rhode Island every year to shoot the popular cooking show at the local public television studio.
As soon as you open the studio door, the aroma of homespun Italian cooking permeates the air.
Since this is Ciao’s 20th season, Esposito and her industrious staff have planned some interesting episodes.
A talented young chef, Peter Scognamillo, who hails from New York, recently joined Esposito to prepare a batch of rich and tasty cookies.
Scognamillo, age 10, whose father Sal owns and operates the acclaimed Patsy’s Restaurant in Manhattan, took to the set like a champ despite his youth. He prepared his own creation of Madalena cookies, a buttery sandwich-style confection filled with raspberry jam.
The energetic young man also helped Esposito prepare her famous Amoretti Fini, a crisp nutty delight.
The feast for the senses, however, was just beginning. The one ingredient missing was music, which was quickly provided by the acclaimed St. Mary Academy-Bay View Chamber Ensemble.
“Peter, you have been such a wonderful baker and good sport, I have a treat for you,” Esposito announced. “Would you like to hear some Italian music?”
The stage was set for the Bay View singers to present their own version of Santa Lucia, an old Neapolitan classic, which was met with rousing cheers from Esposito, her staff, the Scognamillos, the camera crew and other visitors.
“That was beautiful!” said Sal Scognamillo, beaming.
“Girls, you took me right back to Italy,” said Esposito, a native of Buffalo, N. Y., and now a resident of New Hampshire.
As the filming ended, the kitchen staff served freshly baked cookies and tart lemonade for all to enjoy.
Peter Scognamillo and his brother Joseph attend Blessed Sacrament Catholic School in New York City
“The boys’ school is wonderful. It is so important to note, Catholic schools not only promote academic rigor, but stress the importance of service,” the boys’ mother, Lisa, emphasized. “Our boys do so much in the way of community service and that is a vital part of their formation. It is so great that our Catholic schools can incorporate that into the learning process.”