Bastianich at the 2014 Texas Book Festival.
February 21, 1947
Pola, Italy (now Pula, Croatia)
Specializing in Italian and Italian-American cuisine, Bastianich has been a regular contributor to public television cooking shows since 1998. In 2014, she launched her fifth television series, Lidia's Kitchen. She owns several Italian restaurants in the U.S. in partnership with her daughter Tanya Bastianich Manuali and her son, Joe Bastianich, including Felidia (founded with her ex-husband, Felice), Del Posto, Esca, and Becco in Manhattan; Lidia's Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Lidia's Kansas City in Kansas City, Missouri.
Born Lidija Motika, Lidia Matticchio Bastianich was born on February 21, 1947, in Pola, formerly Italian (now a city in Croatia), but made a part of Yugoslavia after September 15, 1947 according to Paris Peace Treaties. Living nine years under Marshal Tito's Communist regime in Yugoslavia, her father, Vittorio, in 1956 sent his wife and their two children to visit relatives in Trieste, Italy, while he remained in Istria to comply with the government's mandate that one member of a family remain in Yugoslavia to ensure that the rest would return. Hours later, Vittorio himself left Yugoslavia under cover of darkness and crossed the border into Italy. Their departure was part of the larger Istrian exodus.
The Motika/Matticchio family reunited in Trieste, Italy, joining other families who had claimed political asylum from Communist Yugoslavia starting in 1947, many of whom remained in refugee camps throughout Italy for years. For the Motika/Matticchio family, the camp was one that had been an abandoned rice factory in Trieste that had been converted to a Nazi concentration camp during World War II and partially destroyed towards the end of the war, the Risiera di San Sabba. According to Bastianich in a Public Television documentary, although a wealthy Triestine family hired her mother as a cook–housekeeper and her father as a limousine driver, they remained residents of the refugee camp. Two years later, their displaced persons application was granted to emigrate to the U.S. In 1958, the Motika/Matticchio family reached New York City. The 12-year-old Bastianich and her family moved to North Bergen, New Jersey, and later Queens, New York.
|“||The Catholic Charities brought us here to New York; we had no one. They found a home for us. They found a job for my father. And ultimately we settled. And I am the perfect example that if you give somebody a chance, especially here in the United States, one can find the way.||”|
Bastianich started working part-time when she was 14 (the legal age for a work permit), during which time she briefly worked at the Astoria bakery owned by Christopher Walken's father. After graduating from high school, she began to work full-time at a pizzeria on the upper west side of Manhattan.[dead link]
At her sweet sixteen birthday party, she was introduced to her future husband, Felice "Felix" Bastianich (born Bastianić), a fellow Istrian Italian immigrant and restaurant worker from Labin (Albona), Istria. The couple married in 1966 and gave birth to their son, Joseph, in 1968. Their second child, Tanya, was born in 1972.
From Queens to Manhattan (1971–1981)
In 1971, the Bastianich couple opened their first restaurant, the tiny Buonavia, meaning "good road", in the Forest Hills section of Queens, with Bastianich as its hostess. They created their restaurant's menu by copying recipes from the most popular and successful Italian restaurants of the day, and they hired the best Italian-American chef that they could find.
After a brief break to deliver her second child Tanya, in 1972 Bastianich began training as the assistant chef at Buonavia, gradually learning enough to cook popular Italian dishes on her own, after which the couple began adding traditional Istrian dishes to their menu.
The success of Buonavia led to the opening of a second restaurant in Queens, Villa Secondo. It was here that Bastianich gained the attention of local food critics and started to give live cooking demonstrations, a prelude to her future career as a television cooking show hostess.
In 1981, Bastianich's father died, and the family sold their two Queens restaurants and purchased a small Manhattan brownstone containing a pre-existing restaurant on the East Side of Manhattan near the 59th Street Bridge to Queens. They converted it into what would eventually become their flagship restaurant, Felidia (a contraction of "Felice" and "Lidia"). After liquidating nearly every asset they had to cover $750,000 worth of renovations, Felidia finally opened to near-universal acclaim from their loyal following of food critics, including The New York Times, which gave Felidia three stars.
Although Lidia and Felice sent their two children to college without expectations that either would go into the restaurant business, Joseph, who had frequently done odd jobs for his parents at Felidia, gave up his newly launched career as a Wall Street bond trader and in 1993 convinced his parents to partner with him to open Becco (Italian for "peck, nibble, savor") in the Theater District in Manhattan. Like Felidia, Becco was an immediate success and led to the opening of additional restaurants outside New York City, including Lidia's Kansas City in 1997, and Lidia's Pittsburgh.
In 1993, Julia Child invited Bastianich to tape an episode of her Public Television series Julia Child: Cooking With Master Chefs, which featured acclaimed chefs from around the U.S., preparing dishes in their own home kitchens. The guest appearance gave Bastianich confidence and determination to expand the Bastianich family's own commercial interests. After many disagreements about the direction their entrepreneurial and personal lives had taken — most notably the pace of the expansion and character of their business — Lidia and Felice divorced in 1998. Bastianich continued expanding her business while Felice transferred his shares in the business to their two children. He died on December 12, 2010.
By the late 1990s, Bastianich's restaurants had evolved into a truly family-owned and operated enterprise. Bastianich's mother, Erminia Motika, maintained the large garden behind the family home, from which Bastianich chose ingredients to use in recipe development. Joe was the chief sommelier of the restaurant group, in addition to branching out into his own restaurant line with friend and famed Italian chef Mario Batali. Bastianich's daughter Tanya Bastianich Manuali used her Ph.D in Italian art history as the foundation for a travel agency partnership with her mother called Esperienze Italiane, through which Tanya and friend Shelly Burgess Nicotra (Executive Producer of Bastianich's television series and head of PR at Lidia's Italy) offered tours throughout Italy. Tanya's husband, attorney Corrado Manuali, became the restaurant group's chief legal counsel.
In 2010, Bastianich and her son partnered with Oscar Farinetti and Mario Batali to open Eataly, a 50,000-square-foot (4,600 m2) food emporium in Manhattan that is devoted to the food and culinary traditions of Italy. Bastianich offers culinary and gastronomy classes to the public at Eataly's school, La Scuola. Eataly's motto is "We sell what we cook, and we cook what we sell". Eataly is now opened in Chicago and Sao Paolo, Brazil.
In 1998, Public Television offered Bastianich her own television series which became Lidia's Italian Table. It established her as a fixture in the network's line-up of cooking-shows. Since then she has hosted additional public television series, including Lidia's Family Table, Lidia's Italy, Lidia's Italy in America, and Lidia's Kitchen. She received an Emmy in 2013. She also hosted a series of hour-long Public Television specials called Lidia Celebrates America. Bastianich ends each episode of her show with an invitation to join her and her family for a meal, Tutti a tavola a mangiare! (Italian for "Everyone to the table to eat"). In 2000, Bastianich participated as a celebrity judge on MasterChef USA, an adaptation of the BBC MasterChef (UK TV series). Her son, Joseph Bastianich, would later go on to star as a celebrity judge on the Gordon Ramsay version of MasterChef, and also on the Italian version. Lidia has served as one of the three judges on Junior Master Chef in Italy since 2014. The second season was released in April 2015.
For the 2010 holiday season, her new television production company, Tavola Productions, created an animated holiday children's special for Public Television "Lidia's Christmas Kitchen: Nonna Tell Me a Story" to go along with the book by the same title that was written by Bastianich.
In 2011, she was featured as a guest judge on the second season of the American television show MasterChef. She has been also guest in the second season of the Italian version of the show, and returned as a guest judge on the fourth season of the US version. In 2013, she won the Daytime Emmy Award for "Outstanding Culinary Host" for Lidia's Italy.
Bastianich has authored several cookbooks to accompany her television series:
- La Cucina di Lidia
- Lidia's Family Table
- Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen
- Lidia's Italian Table
- Lidia's Italy
- Lidia's Italy in America
- Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy
- Lidia's Italy in America
- Lidia's Favorites
- Lidia's Commonsense Italian Cooking
- Nonna Tell Me A Story
- Nonna's Birthday Surprise
- Lidia's Egg-Citing Farm Adventure
She is the winner of 2013 Emmy for Outstanding Culinary Host. The fall of 2010 marked the debut of Lidia's Kitchen, an exclusive line of commercial cookware, and serving ware for QVC. Along with her daughter Tanya, and son-in-law Corrado Manuali, Bastianich launched Nonna Foods as a platform to distribute an array of both existing and new LIDIA'S food products. Nonna Foods has 9 cuts of pasta and 7 varieties of sauces available nationwide. Together with her son Joseph, Bastianich produces award-winning wines at Bastianich Vineyard in Friuli and La Mozza Vineyard in Maremma, Italy.
Bastianich lives in Queens, New York, with her mother, Erminia Matticchio. Bastianich's own kitchen has served as the stage set for all four of her television series, and the garden that Erminia maintains provides many of the ingredients featured in the shows. Erminia, who answers to "grandma," frequently serves as a sous-chef in various episodes of the television series.
Tanya Bastianich Manuali, with her husband Corrado Manuali and their two children, lives just a few blocks away from her mother. Tanya is integrally involved in the production of Lidia’s public television series as an owner and Executive Producer of Tavola Productions, and is active daily in the family restaurant business.
In an interview by American Public Television, Bastianich spoke of how important it is for her to pass on family traditions:
|“||Food for me was a connecting link to my grandmother, to my childhood, to my past. And what I found out is that for everybody, food is a connector to their roots, to their past in different ways. It gives you security; it gives you a profile of who you are, where you come from.||”|
- “Author Interview”, Lidia’s Italy. Random House, Inc., online catalogue. (Retrieved July 31, 2009)
- Lidia Bastianich to Receive Bpeace Economic Impact Award. Press Release. Business Council for Peace, April 29, 2008. (Retrieved August 1, 2009.)
- Fernandez, Tommy. "Most Powerful Women in New York 2007". Crain's New York Business. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
- Hyman, Vicki (November 1, 2011). "'Lidia's Italy in America': Now that's Italian-American!". NJ.com.
- Rosenberg, Sarah and Christina Caron. "Nightline Plate List: Lidia Bastianich: Italian-American Chef Breaks Bread with the Pope". Nightline. ABC News. April 20, 2008. (Retrieved 2009-08-01)
- [dead link]
- Passing the Toque: For a New Generation, Hospitality Is Destiny, Suzanne Hamlin, published January 10, 1996; retrieved February 1, 2008.
- "Lidia Bastianich Navigator" from NYTimes.com
- Cast of Characters of Lidia's Family Table; retrieved January 31, 2008.
- Chef of the Month Club: Lidia Bastianich; retrieved January 31, 2008.
- Great Chefs Television
- Culinary Hall of Fame Induction A Diversified Business
- "American Public Television Online"
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lidia Bastianich.|
- Lidia's Italy Lidia Bastianich's official Web site.
- Lidia's Italy at the Internet Movie Database
- Celebrity Judges 2000 MasterChef USA official web site
-  Lidia Celebrates America
-  Facebook
-  Twitter