Lidia Bastianich, the beloved and acclaimed Italian chef, is a woman of many culinary talents. Since 1998, viewers have been warmly welcomed into her kitchen on PBS through a succession of cooking shows, including Lidia’s Italy, for which she won an Emmy in 2013. As a successful restaurateur, she began with Buonavia in 1971 and has garnered accolades in a wide range of culinary avenues, now partnered with son Joe and daughter Tanya. She is the chef-owner of renowned Felidia, Becco, Esca and Del Posto in New York as well as Lidia’s Pittsburgh and Lidia’s Kansas City, and in 2015 released her 11th cookbook, Lidia's Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Great Italian Cook. In addition, she is the founder of Tavola Productions, co-owner of Bastianich Winery, busy with Lidia's Kitchen, a tabletop and cookware line, and Lidia’s sauces and pastas, and expanding the highly-successful Eataly, an artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace, from locations in New York City, Chicago, and Sao Paolo, Brazil.
Next weekend, Chef Lidia visits Arizona for a special dinner at Avanti benefitting Arizona PBS on March 19th and to join host Chef Robert McGrath on the 20th at the Check Please! Festival for “A Masterful Chat with Lidia Bastianich”. I had a chance to talk to this talented culinary star about her upcoming visit.
We’re happy to have you back in Arizona. What will the Check Please! Festival be like? Thank you. I’m going to do a meet and greet and also a panel. We’ll start with an intimate conversation with me and the host asking questions, and then we’ll open it up to the audience, followed by a meet and greet.
Could you tell me more about the dinner on March 19th? The night before, we have a dinner for KAET public television and I will be signing my latest book. It will be dishes from Lidia's Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine paired with Bastianich wines. I will explain the recipes and the choices, and any questions that the diners have. When I do these kind of trips I like to combine fundraising. I do a lot of fundraising for public television because that’s where I want to be. That’s where I think the platform for intelligent communication is, so I support and I go to different stations. At the dinners usually I talk, I answer questions, I go around the room, and so it is an opportunity to meet my my viewers, my people that are out there sending me those emails, connecting with them. It is important for me.
Eataly is a huge success, and you've also opened internationally in Brazil. What made you choose that location? It's a partners kind of meeting of the minds, if you will. We get approached a lot from entrepreneurs that want to partner. We usually do partner with the local entrepreneur and the businessman because they know the area. They came and made a good offer, and there was the excitement of the culture and going down there. The place is doing fantastic. We're also working on Boston and LA.
At Eataly you are involved in the classes. Yes. We all kind of have our responsibilities. The US partners are Joe [Bastianich], Mario [Batali] and myself as far as the restaurants, and then we have the Italian partners. The restaurants are our theme, whereas the groceries and more of that are our Italian partners because the groceries all come from Italy and we work there with Slow Food. I am the dean of education. Each store has a La Scuola, the school. I have a team and we organize events and I do special classes.
You also own an Italian winery. We do, we have a winery in Friuli, Bastianich wine. We produce it and sell it across the United States and we are very excited about that. My evolution in what I do in my business is really about the opportunities that came about. Which do you take, and which do you not take. I guess if you do well and you get recognized, you get opportunities offered, and so the wine actually came out of wanting to to back to Italy. That’s where our home is, in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The place had a little winery and of course we continued to make the wine.
Congratulations on your new book. I believe it's your 11th? Yes, thank you, it's Lidia's Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine.
With such a wealth of knowledge, is there a dish that you think everyone should know how to do? That’s a big spectrum, but I think a good marinara sauce. It's simple and straightforward; it’s very doable. I think once people get the success and see how simple, easy, and good a marinara sauce is, then with the marinara you can make chicken pizzaiola, you can make shrimp fra diavolo, or anything out of the marinara. It’s based on simple, good ingredients.
What are the plans for the future? We are going to continue to open up more locations. We’re thinking of Philadelphia. Absolutely, we’re thinking, we’re looking, we want to do more in the States.