Franklin Lakes, N.J. (AP) — It's Sunday afternoon at Caroline Manzo's house, and the family has gathered for an early dinner.
Caroline (of "Real Housewives of New Jersey" fame), her three children — sons Albie, 28, and Chris, 25, and daughter Lauren, 26 — and a 2-year-old cousin, Olivia, whom Lauren is babysitting, sit around a table in the kitchen, grazing on meat, cheese and bread as Caroline prepares dinner — veal cutlets, meatballs and pasta.
She has to use a toaster oven because her oven broke and there hasn't been time to fix it. At this moment, they're just a regular family, the only sign that they are about to have their own reality show a black backdrop and camera equipment in the living room where they tape their interviews.
"This is making me nervous," says Chris. "''We never sit like this. It's throwing me off my chi."
The Manzos' Bravo spin-off, "Manzo'd with Children," premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. EST. Caroline says she was ready to leave "Housewives" before the idea for their own show came about.
"We never asked for (a show.) It came to us," says Caroline.
"I think it was something Bravo needed in a weird way. It's really not drama and if there is drama we handle it in the right way," adds Lauren, 26. (Read: there are no table flips or fist fights which became associated with the series.)
The famous family recently chatted with the Associated Press over their family dinner:
Associated Press: Watching "Housewives", some viewers may have thought you seemed intimidating. Do you think this show will give people a different perspective of you?
Caroline Manzo: I think so. You know what it is? When I walk into a room I'm not like, 'Hey!' I'm scoping it out. I like my circle and when I'm not in my circle I'm more quiet and reserved rather than mingle. ... For the most part, I'm very laid back and very chill.
AP: What does your husband think of all this?
Caroline: He's cute. He's very proud.
Chris: He'll act like it's the biggest burden but he loves it.
Caroline: He's very, very like super proud. He has Google alerts. I don't have any.
AP: Do you read your press?
Caroline: No, it keeps you sane (not to.) You can go insane both ways. You can't believe the negative and you can't allow it to hurt you and you can't believe the positive either. Think about it, you know me from 10 minutes once a week.
AP: How did filming "Manzo'd" differ from "Housewives"?
Albie: The anxiety factor is gone. We're just having fun. ... It's 1000 percent us.
Caroline: Being a part of 'Housewives' for five years, it was like baptism by fire. There's no difficult question that you weren't asked. You couldn't control anything. You didn't know what was gonna happen. I know what these four walls. With the other ladies you didn't know who was capable of what. ... It's a comfort knowing who the players are and everybody has good intentions.
AP: Besides (your sister-in-law) Jaqueline, do you keep in touch with the other Jersey "Housewives"?
Lauren: Some of them came to my engagement party.
Caroline: Kathie (Wakile) once in a while. I'm at a different place in my life. Even when I was filming 'Housewives,, I wasn't like that (close) with them. I've got kids who are adults. They've got babies. They're 32 (years-old). I'm 53.
AP: What do you say about Teresa Giudice? (She was sentenced Thursday in federal court to 15 months in prison on conspiracy and bankruptcy charges. Her husband, Giuseppe "Joe" Giudice, was sentenced to 41 months.)
Caroline: It's sad. There's no other word for it. I don't know the ins and outs of it but it's a small town and you hear things. It's sad because she's got those girls.
AP: It must be fun working with family.
Caroline: We have a blast. We laugh. We had a wrap party and we had piñatas of each member of the family. We gave the crew bats...
Chris: Lauren was destroyed.
Caroline: We all got beat up. Nobody would even take a bat to my husband's. His piñata is still there.
Alicia Rancilio covers entertainment for The Associated Press. Follow her online at http://www.twitter.com/aliciar