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Q. How did you learn to cook?
A. I used to watch my grandmother make fancy, Julia Child-style beef bourguignon. And growing up in New York City, I was exposed to many cultures. I experimented with Puerto Rican and Jamaican food.
Q. Has your love of food rubbed off on your daughters?
A. Definitely. They've seen Gabriele and me cooking since day one. I remember coming home once and spotting Giulia, who was 3 at the time, with a big knife in her hand. Panicking, I asked Gabriele what was up. "Calm down," he said. "She's practicing how to chop an onion." These days she wakes up and says, "I'm making pancakes!" And Evelyn is the food critic. She'll try almost anything and has a very precise palate. "Too much salt," she'll say, or "Needs more pork."
Q. Before we get back to cooking, let's talk about Entourage for a minute. Why do you think it is such a hit?
A. People love the glamour of Hollywood. We shoot on location, L.A. is a gorgeous city, and it's a total boys' show. The concept is a men's fantasy world: perks, chicks, money, and cars.
Q. What's it like being outnumbered on set? Are you treated like one of the boys?
A. No, I'm more like the mom. It's so much fun! I'm a powerful force—in and out of character.
Q. On your new show, Extra Virgin, you get to be yourself. Why did you decide to film a show from your kitchen?
A. On other cooking programs everything is precut and perfect. Gabriele and I wanted people to see what it's like at a normal house: ingredients spilling out of pots, the dog marching through the kitchen, the kids yelling, "I'm hungry!" I think most moms can relate.
Q. You've described your husband as a romantic. What has he done that's dreamy?
A. He bought me a plant that grew into a tree, and every year it gets bigger and bigger—like our love.Fast Facts
Play time: "We love going to museums and taking walks through the woods. But we can have fun anywhere. The other night we got in a line and did a Soul Train dance around the kitchen."
That's amore: "When Gabriele started introducing me to Tuscan culture, I fell in love with the food, wine, and way of life. I'm now an Italian citizen and the girls and I speak Italian!"
Miss Manners: "I'm teaching my daughters to be ladies by showing them how to dress appropriately when they leave the house, and how to be thoughtful and polite."
Handle with care: "I don't like the idea of things being off-limits to kids—like a fancy sitting room where they can't touch anything. I own vintage pottery cups, and I let my girls hold them. It teaches them to treat objects with respect."
Scoring points: "The girls finally thought I was cool when I got a part on the Jonas Brothers TV show. I brought them to the set and they got to see the guys in concert. It was adorable that they were so excited."
Originally published in the April 17, 2011, issue of Family Circle magazine.