Café Mamajuana's Maria Lara-Bregatta Competes on Food Network's 'Ciao House' | Food News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Café Mamajuana's Maria Lara-Bregatta Competes on Food Network's 'Ciao House'


Published May 16, 2024 at 2:08 p.m.
Updated May 22, 2024 at 10:09 a.m.

Maria Lara-Bregatta in her garden - FILE: DARIA BISHOP
  • File: Daria Bishop
  • Maria Lara-Bregatta in her garden
Café Mamajuana chef-owner Maria Lara-Bregatta is one of 12 chefs competing on Season 2 of Food Network's "Ciao House," which premieres on Sunday, May 19, at 8 p.m.

The culinary competition show — hosted and judged by Alex Guarnaschelli and Gabe Bertaccini — gathers the chefs in a villa in Puglia, Italy, where they "live and cook together, fusing their own culinary styles with Italian cuisine," according to Food Network's description.

That premise is what drew Lara-Bregatta to the show. The chef, who currently offers catering and preordered Friday takeout from the Colchester kitchen she shares with Shaneall Ferron of Thingz From Yaad, has long fused her Dominican and Italian roots.

Café Mamajuana's stuffed canoa and empanadas - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • Café Mamajuana's stuffed canoa and empanadas
"I cook Dominican food, and my father is first generation, but my mother is South-Philly Italian," Lara-Bregatta told Seven Days while prepping in her kitchen on Thursday.

"I think it's a part of me that people don't really know and are just starting to learn."

Lara-Bregatta spent a month in Italy last fall to tape the show, while her husband, mother and sister took care of her young daughter. On social media, she said she was working a private chef gig to avoid spoiling the news.

Only she and one other chef didn't have previous television experience, Lara-Bregatta said, and learning the ropes "was a wild and scary experience."

"People think I'm a confident, outgoing person," she continued. "But I was really, really nervous the whole time."

To prepare, she studied all types of Italian cuisine, including dishes from Puglia, which sits at the southern tip of Italy's bootheel facing Greece across the Adriatic Sea. The food from the region is different from what many think of when they picture Italian cuisine, Lara-Bregatta said.

"I did a ton of research, read a ton of recipes, wrote a ton of recipes," she said. "But it all leaves your head the second you're in front of cameras."

Lara-Bregatta couldn't say much about the outcome of the show, but she noted that the other chefs — who came from all over the country and all shared two bathrooms in the villa — were "awesome" and "brought the drama."

"The season's fiery," she added with a laugh.

Since taping, Lara-Bregatta has incorporated even more Italian influence in her menus, she said. On Wednesday, May 29, she'll host a four-course outdoor meal at her kitchen at
261 Mountain View Drive in Colchester. Dishes will play on the concept of the show, including a Dominican Caesar salad and porchetta relleno de mofongo. Tickets are available at

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