'Ciao Italia' visits Fortuna's in Manchester

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MANCHESTER — Patti Fortuna-Stannard was just a little bit nervous.

She kept checking her phone as the hours ticked past 10 a.m. on Tuesday, wondering when public television Italian cooking icon Mary Ann Esposito would be arriving at her family's business, Fortuna's Sausage & Italian Market, to film an episode of PBS' "Ciao Italia," the longest-running cooking show in TV history and now filming it's 27th season.

Esposito and her two-person TV crew were driving from New Hampshire to film at the store, and at the family's home in Sandgate.

"I'm nervous but not that nervous. I'm excited, very excited," Fortuna-Stannard said. "It's a great opportunity for us. Everybody knows her."

In the meantime, Fortuna-Stannard's son Chris Stannard was putting the finishing touches on Italian sausage and marinara sauce to serve as samples, while her husband Paul Stannard was preparing a few slices of Chianti salami — an upcoming addition to the store's salami offerings — for samples. Paul explained that 400 pounds of the wine-infused salami produced about 200 pounds of finished product, due to the fact that it's cured naturally, without nitrates or nitrites.

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It wasn't long before Esposito, executive producer Paul Lally and assistant Jonathon Millman were walking through the front door.

"It smells like sausage," Esposito said, smiling, as she was greeted by Chris, Paul and Patti, with whom she shared a big hug.

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Esposito, the author of 12 cookbooks and recipient of numerous awards for her work in researching and popularizing regional Italian cuisine, chatted freely with the family and with shoppers who visited the store before and during the taping.

What keeps Esposito excited about being on TV after 26 years?

"Italian regional cooking. There's so much to know about it,' she said. "There are no formal recipes. If you go town to town, region to region, everybody would make [a dish] differently. That's what keeps it fresh. It's just inexhaustible."

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Once the crew arrived, Millman quickly set up a light fixture while Lally scoped out camera angles and determined where Esposito and Fortuna-Stannard would stand and what they would do.

Once Lally shouted "Action," Esposito walked through the front door, greeted Fortuna-Stannard with an enthusiastic "Ciao Bella!" and the two were talking through their culinary plans on camera as if they were the only two people in the room.

Fortuna-Stannard had previously appeared on "Ciao Italia," as a guest in Esposito's kitchen in New Hampshire. The episode filmed Tuesday featured the family, the business and the family sausage recipes that stretch back generations.

Fortuna-Stannard said area businesses rolled out the red carpet for the show. She said the Hampton Inn and Suites and Kimpton Taconic Hotel hosted the crew and Esposito, respectively, and the Copper Grouse and executive chef Vanessa Davis treated the entire group to a chef's table dinner.

Reach Journal editor Greg Sukiennik at 802-490-6000.


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