Holiday Traditions: Mary Ann Esposito

Mary Ann Esposito

PBS is celebrating the holidays by sharing some of the favorite traditions, memories and recipes that make all of our holidays so very important and special. Each day we will highlight a new story from some of your favorite personalities.

Mary Ann Esposito, host of Ciao Italia, shares her favorite recipe that her mother made.

No holiday visit to Mom’s house was ever complete without her sending me home with a box of her famous date nut bars. Of all her confections, this was the one that everyone craved.

Mary Ann Esposito's family

La famiglia: Mary Ann Esposito (back row, third from the left) and her family in their Depew, NY, home with grandmother Nonna Galasso.

Mary Ann Esposito is the host of Ciao Italia, which can be seen on stations across the country on Create TV. Mary Ann share the above recipe in her latest cookbook, Ciao Italia Family Classics, which is full of Mary Ann’s favorite dishes.

Date Nut Bars


Enjoy this date nut bars recipe - a treasured Italian dessert from Mary Ann Esposito's mother. Recipe Courtesy of "Ciao Italia Family Classics" - St. Martin's Press.



  • 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2-teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4-teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1/2-cup sugar
  • 1-tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups diced dates (10 ounces)
  • 1 cup toasted, chopped walnuts
  • Confectioner’s sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Butter a 10-inch square pan and dust with flour or line the pan with aluminum foil and butter it. Set aside.
  3. Sift 1/2 cup of the flour with the baking powder and salt into a bowl.
  4. In another bowl beat the eggs until they are foamy. Gradually add the sugar and vanilla beating until well blended. Fold in the flour mixture.
  5. In a small bowl toss the dates and nuts with the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of the four. This method will prevent the dates and nuts from sinking to the bottom of the pan while baking.
  6. Fold the date mixture into the batter.
  7. Spread batter evenly in the pan. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top and firm to the touch. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
  8. Cut into squares and sprinkle the tops with confectioner’s sugar.


These can be made ahead and frozen without the confectioners sugar for up to 3 months.

Yield: 24 bars