Alexia DiGiglio-Mancini is an entertainer at heart.
She worked in the music industry for many years, first as a singer. She started her own independent label in 1995 and released a single, “No Matter What I Do (It’s All About You).” She traveled and performed throughout the decade before the release from her contract in the early 2000s.
She remained attached to the business, though, writing songs for other artists before starting a family and working at Anyplace Travel on Atwood Avenue in Johnston. While she was focused on her loved ones and new career, she never lost her passion for entertaining.
She found a new outlet through posting video clips to Facebook, which featured her cooking dishes such as lasagna or chicken cutlets. The response was instant. The clips received thousands of views, and Alexia was bombarded with request for recipes.
She and her friend Jennie Villella knew there was an opportunity to grow, and her cooking show, “U Had Me at Kitchen” was born.
“It was like, ‘Oh my god, a 30-second chicken cutlet? Thousands of people are watching it? This is crazy,’” Alexia said during an interview with the Sun Rise last week. “My friend Jennie came to me and she was saying, ‘I really think you should do a cooking show.’ I said, ‘Who has time for that? I don’t have time for that.’ And she said, ‘People want it, I’m telling you.’ I’m like, ‘We should call it ‘U Had Me at Kitchen.’”
Alexia said a real-life encounter inspired the name. She said she purchased Villella’s house, and she didn’t need to see the rest of the home after a tour of the kitchen. She told Villella, “You had me at kitchen” – a play on the famous quote “You had me at hello” from the film “Jerry Maguire.”
“I thought it was a creative name,” Alexia said. “We came up with the concept together of bringing back Sunday dinner. Then I decided, let’s do this, and I reached out to some of my old music friends to see if they knew anybody that did food production or any type of shows like this.”
Alexia spoke with Armand DeLuise, the eye behind programs like “TV Maitre’D” and “Flavors of Knowledge,” who offered to produce the show. The first episode – which featured a flatbread with pesto and caramelized onions to go with antipasto and “Chicken Alexia” – garnered more than 34,000 views on Facebook.
Network meetings proved fruitful, as Alexia officially secured an on-air spot for her project. She can be seen on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 8 a.m. on the CW Providence. The show also airs at 8:30 a.m. on Saturdays and 9:30 p.m. on Sundays on myRITV.
“I want the numbers to grow, as more exposure comes to the show, that’s how it pretty much works,” Alexia said. “My TV ratings are really good, and they’re growing. I’d like to give more of a variety and get a couple of shows out a month versus one. That’s something we’re working on.”
The program, much like Italian cooking itself, is a labor of love. Alexia said she has to cook each dish twice, and filming days often begin at 5 a.m. Some delicacies, like bolognese, can take up to six hours to perfect. She has guests on her show, ranging from friends and family to local celebrities, including singer Ron Giorgio and guitarist Lino DelSignore.
She said the party sometimes won’t stop until the next morning.
“Then it turns into a big party and it ends at around 12:30 at night,” Alexia said. “Armand takes the footage – which can be four to six hours – and condenses it to a half-hour episode. He’s really good. I’ve been recognized by some companies – for example Pastene, the tomato company. They’ve been sending me boxes. It’s really exciting.”
The family theme of her program is crucial to its success, and Alexia said she enjoys being able to film her show at home. She said that, between her children playing various sports and everyone having a loaded schedule, she enjoys being able to spend time with her loved ones “because a lot of people miss that today.”
“It makes me happy, so I enjoy it very much,” she said. “Having my kids around, it’s just a great, fun time. I get to do it all at my house. I’ve been going on location here and there, which is also fun. My next episode will be on location. It’s going to be more of a Tuscan theme, so we’re working on that episode right now. It’s just a lot of fun. I’m enjoying every moment.”
Alexia said if she could have anyone on her show to cook any dish she desires, she would choose Guy Fieri and create “something really authentically Italian.” She’s a diehard fan of his programs, and she even has a few pictures with the so-called “Mayor of Flavortown” himself.
“I love him. He’s the best,” Alexia said of Fieri, before diving into what they would make. “Start to finish, like a beautiful burrata with prosciutto, we’ll go to some stuffed peppers, we’re going to do beef braciole, lasagna, it’s a whole thing. That’s what I’d want.”
She may not be recording songs anymore, but Alexia said she has taken some lessons learned from her time in that industry and applied them to her cooking show. She said she understands that not everyone is going to enjoy the show, and she has received a small percentage of negative comments.
Alexia said that the positive messages far outweigh the nastier ones, and they continue to inspire her to achieve her goals and continue to make her show a success.
After all, she lives to entertain.
“Once in a while I get something like, one guy put, ‘Great recipe, but she’s so annoying.’ And I just laugh, because I realize not everyone’s going to love you,” Alexia said. “I do it because I’m enjoying it, and if it’s making me happy, I hope to bring happiness to other people. That’s really the feeling that I want people to feel.”
Editor's note: A previous version of this story omitted the Saturday slot during which the show can be viewed, and mistakenly referred to Anyplace Travel as Anytime Travel.