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  • Interview with Cooking With Nonna Host Rossella Rago
    Part 2 of 3 - Cooking With Nonna
    Continued from part 1

    Interviewed by Anthony Parente

    Rina Mulazzi and Rossella

    Tell us a little bit about your "Cooking With Nonna" web site and how you came up with this idea?
    The Cooking with Nonna project was born in my Nonna's basement in Brooklyn. In early 2007, I was attending college in NY and I was living with my Nonna. One Sunday afternoon, after a family healthy meal and a few glasses of wine, my dad and I started contemplating about my future. From an early age I have been exposed to the entertainment world by my mother, both theater and cinema, and so were contemplating what projects ideally I would want to be involved in. At that moment I said, "My dream would be to do a cooking show. Maybe I can show the world all that my Nonna is teaching me." And so that was the beginning of the idea which then has evolved in the show as you see it today.

    Could any Italian Grandmother who wanted to share one of her recipes take part in one of your webisodes?
    Of course all Nonne are candidates to be part of the project in some form. Some Nonne are good candidates to be on the show and thus we invite them to participate in the video production, while some other Nonne either because of distance, language, etc. can participate in the project by supplying their photos, bio and recipes.

    There are a lot of web sites and television shows dedicated to Italian cooking. What do you think separates your site and online show from all the rest?
    Indeed there many website and TV shows focusing Italian cuisine and that was our first concern when we first came up with the idea. However, as we did some further research and further developed our project we came to the realization that Cooking with Nonna is not just a cooking show or a recipe website. On Cooking with Nonna we use the Italian cuisine as a medium to celebrate Italian food, our Nonne and of course explore the roots of where they came from turning each episode into a unique celebration of Italy.

    How long does it take you to put together a webisode?
    The current format of our webisode consists of a biographical interview of the Nonna, followed by the recipe that the Nonna and I prepare. Each finished show is about 12-15 minutes long. With each Nonna we do two shows and thus two recipes. However, I can tell you that many hours of preparation and work go to create these two 15 minute shows. First with the Nonna we discuss and agree which recipes she will do. Next, we have to procure all the ingredients and necessary tools. Lastly comes the shooting, which is usually done on weekends. Saturday is dedicated to rehearsals and Sundays is dedicated to the actual shoots. I can tell you that on Sunday night we are all exhausted but always deeply satisfied. Each time the experience has been unique as each Nonna brings to the table her wealth of wit and life experiences.

    What challenges if any have you faced in putting together this online cooking show?
    The challenges were many and varied. Remember we had to go from an idea that was born in a basement to actually producing a show. In between we had to create a nice and functional website, we had to secure all the technology to make everything happen find a production company that we could work with and music, photography, etc. Well, after so many tries and discussions with many people we learned so much and we finally were able to go live in June of 2009.

    Is there anyone in particular that you would love to have on your show?
    Lidia Bastianich, of course, because she is the cornerstone of classic Italian cuisine. And DUH! She's a Nonna!! I would also love to do a show with Giada De Laurentiis and pick her brain on some of her Nonna's favorite dishes. I think we would make a pretty sassy team together. Plus, I think people would just LOVE to see us duke it out...KIDDING!

    Are there any special recipes that you are looking for?
    There are really no particular recipes that we are looking for. All Italian recipes are very interesting and certainly good candidates for consideration. What we are trying to do now is to cover all the regions of Italy. So far we have had Nonne to represent 12 regions. We still have to cover 8 more. Of course finding Nonne for the southern regions of Italy has been a bit easier but with time for sure we will cover them all.

    What would a Nonna need to do to contribute a recipe for your site?
    As for new recipes from Nonne, of course we are always looking for more and from any region of Italy. However each recipe must be associated with a Nonna . That is I cannot use just a recipe. The Nonna needs to provide first her bio and a photo of herself. Then she can provide one or more recipes with a photo, ingredients, directions, etc. All the necessary information can be found on our Information Needed from Nonna page.

    What can we look forward to in the upcoming years?
    Cooking with Nonna will certainly be the focus of our project for the years to come, as there is still so much more to do and so many Nonne to bring on the show. However, we are also beginning to explore other opportunities related to cooking. For example we have recently shot some shows where I bake on my own. Baking is a real passion of mine. As we move forward we will continue to also explore and develop other projects to complement the current shows and thus bring a more complete and varied experience to our fans.

    Part 3: A Closer Look at Rossella

    Part 1
    Part 2
    Part 3

    Photo copyright © Michael Quigley. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

    Article Published 2/22/10


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