Lidia Bastianich

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Lidia Bastianich
Lidia bastianich 2014.jpg
Bastianich at the 2014 Texas Book Festival.
Born Lidia Giuliana Matticchio[1]
(1947-02-21) February 21, 1947 (age 69)
Pola, Free Territory of Trieste (now Pula, Croatia)
Culinary career
Cooking style Italian

Lidia Giuliana Matticchio Bastianich (Italian: [ˈliːdja matˈtikkjo baˈstjaːnitʃ]; born February 21, 1947) is an Italian-born American celebrity chef, television host, author, and restaurateur.

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.

Early life[edit]

Lidia Bastianich was born Lidia Giuliana Matticchio on February 21, 1947, in Pola, formerly Italian (now a city in Croatia), but made a part of Yugoslavia according to the February 10, 1947 Paris Peace Treaty with Italy. She is the daughter of Erminia and Vittorio Matticchio.[2] Living nine years under Marshal Tito's Communist regime in Yugoslavia, during which time her name was changed from Matticchio to Motika by the Yugoslav authorities,[3] 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.[4] Hours later, Vittorio himself left Yugoslavia under cover of darkness and crossed the border into Italy.[4] Their departure was part of the larger Istrian exodus.

The Matticchio family reunited in Trieste, Italy,[5] 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 Matticchio family, the Risiera di San Sabba 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.[5] In 1958, the Matticchio family reached New York City.[5][6] The 12-year-old Lidia and her family moved to North Bergen, New Jersey, and later Queens, New York.[7]

Bastianich gives credit for the family's new roots in America to their sponsor, Catholic Relief Services:[5][6][8]

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.[9]

At her sweet sixteen birthday party, she was introduced to her future husband, Felice "Felix" Bastianich, a fellow Istrian Italian immigrant[2][10][11] and restaurant worker from Labin (Albona), on the eastern coast of Istria, Croatia. The couple married in 1966 and Lidia gave birth to their son, Joseph, in 1968. Their second child, Tanya, was born in 1972.


From Queens to Manhattan (1971–1981)[edit]

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[12] 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 1998,[13] and Lidia's Pittsburgh in 2001.[14]

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.[15]

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".[16] Eataly is now opened in Chicago and São Paulo, Brazil. They opened a second store in New York at the World Trade Center in Manhattan in 2016,[17] and another one in Boston the same year.[18]

The fall of 2010 also 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.[19][20]

Television (1998–present)[edit]

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 also hosted a series of hour-long Public Television specials called Lidia Celebrates America, which premiered in 2011 with Lidia Celebrates America: Holiday Tables & Traditions. In the series, Bastianich celebrates the diversity of cultures across the United States and explores the American immigrant experience. The following special, Lidia Celebrates America: Weddings – Something Borrowed, Something New, aired in 2012; Lidia Celebrates America: Freedom & Independence in 2013; Lidia Celebrates America: Life’s Milestones in 2013; Lidia Celebrates America: Holiday Tables and Traditions in 2015; and Lidia Celebrates America: Holiday for Heroes in 2016.[21] 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").

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.[19]

In 2013, Bastianich returned to Public Television with Lidia’s Kitchen, a 26-part series produced by Tavola Productions. The series is in its fourth season, which premiered in 2016.

Among Bastianich's television show appearances, she participated as a celebrity judge on MasterChef USA, an adaptation of the BBC MasterChef (UK TV series) in 2000. Her son, Joseph Bastianich, would later go on to star as a celebrity judge on the Gordon Ramsay version of MasterChef. Bastianich has also appeared on the Italian television show Junior MasterChef Italia in 2014 and 2015 for Season 1 and Season 2. In 2016, she was a judge for the Italian television show, La Prova del Cuoco.[22]

Books (1990–present)[edit]

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
  • Lidia's Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine

Awards and honors[edit]

In 1996, Lidia Bastianich received a "Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America" James Beard Award.[23] Bastianich was named “Best Outstanding Chef” in 2002 [24] and “Best Chef in New York” in 2009 [25] by the James Beard Foundation. Lidia’s Italy was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2008 [26] and won the James Beard Award for “Best Cooking Show” in 2009.[27] In 2012, Bastianich’s prime time PBS special, Lidia Celebrates America: Holiday Tables & Traditions was nominated for “Outstanding Documentary” by the James Beard Foundation.[28] She is also the winner of the 2013 Emmy for Outstanding Culinary Host .[29] In 2014, three Tavola productions- Lidia's Kitchen, Lidia Celebrates America, and Amy Thielen's Heartland Table on the Food Network were nominated for a James Beard Award. In 2016, Lidia Celebrates America: Home for the Holidays won the "Best Special" James Beard Award.[30]

In 2000, Women Chefs and Restaurateurs awarded Bastianich a Golden Whisk Award.[31] She later received the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) Honors Award in 2007,[32] and was the recipient of Bpeace’s first-ever Economic Impact Award [33] in 2008 for her achievements as an entrepreneur and role model.

In 2009, Bastianich received the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) Special Achievement Award for her humanitarian service.[34] She was then the recipient of the Italian Talent Award in 2015 by The Italian Talent Association [35] for representing Made in Italy around the world.

In 2015, Bastianich received an Augie Award at the Annual Culinary Institute of America Leadership Awards.[36] In 2016, Bastianich received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Women with Wings and Wisdom [37] and a Spirit Award from Kansas City Women in Film and Television (KCWIFT) for being a female leader in the field of television.[38] In 2017, she received the Queens Ambassador Awards from Community News Group (CNG).[39]

Personal life[edit]

Bastianich lives in Queens, New York, with her mother, Erminia Motika. 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.

Joe Bastianich occasionally appears in his mother's series to offer wine expertise. Heand their three children live in Greenwich, Connecticut, while his wife Deanna lives in New York City.

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:

Bastianich is also a devout Roman Catholic.


Lidia Bastianich is an active member of society who participates in community service activities and special events on behalf of several foundations. She is a founding member of Les Dames d’Escoffier and Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, two non-profit organizations of women leaders in the food and hospitality industries.

Bastianich is on the Board of the Arrupe College,[41] a higher education program founded by the Loyola University of Chicago for underprivileged students, and regularly hosts Fundraisers for the program at Eataly in Chicago.[42][43] BoysGrow, a local non-profit vocational training program, is another organization that she works with by hosting annual Benefit Dinners since 2013 at her restaurant Lidia’s in Kansas City.[44] In addition, she has helped raise funds for United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)- now known as UN Women- as co-chair of charity events and Benefit Dinners throughout her career.

Bastianich is also actively involved with various non-profit organizations that are focused on promoting and celebrating Italian and Italian-American culture and heritage. She is part of the National Organization of Italian American Women's Distinguished Board,[45] a national organization for women of Italian ancestry that focuses on preserving Italian heritage, language and culture. In 2010, the Bastianich family was honored by NOIAW for their outstanding contributions to Italian culture in America.[46]

She supports the Columbus Citizens Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on promoting and celebrating Italian-American heritage. She was the Grand Marshal of the Columbus Day Parade in New York City in 2007,[47] and an honorary guest at the 2016 Columbus Celebration Kickoff Event at Eataly Downtown in New York City.[48]

Moreover, Bastianich has worked with the Italian American Committee on Education (IACE), a New York based non-profit organization that promotes the study of Italian language and culture, by visiting elementary schools and speaking to students as a guest speaker, such as in 2011 in Harlem [49] and in 2014 in the Bronx.[50] In 2014, Bastianich led the committee that determined the winners of a contest initiative launched by Eataly and IACE for students.[51]


  1. ^ Finding Your Roots, March 1, 2016, PBS
  2. ^ a b Judith Weinraub, Savoring Gotham: A Food Lover's Companion to New York City, 2015 [1]
  3. ^ Victor William Geraci, Elizabeth S. Demers, Icons of American Cooking, 3 [2]
  4. ^ a b "Author Interview", Lidia's Italy. Random House, Inc., online catalogue. (Retrieved July 31, 2009)
  5. ^ a b c d Lidia Bastianich to Receive Bpeace Archived July 24, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Economic Impact Award]]. Press Release. Business Council for Peace, April 29, 2008. (Retrieved August 1, 2009.)
  6. ^ a b Fernandez, Tommy. "Most Powerful Women in New York 2007". Crain's New York Business. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
  7. ^ Hyman, Vicki (November 1, 2011). "'Lidia's Italy in America': Now that's Italian-American!".
  8. ^ a b 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)
  9. ^ [3] Archived August 18, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ CaLDRON Magazine, February 2015, p. 6
  11. ^ Andrew Smith, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, 2013, p. 127 [4]
  12. ^ Passing the Toque: For a New Generation, Hospitality Is Destiny, Suzanne Hamlin, published January 10, 1996; retrieved February 1, 2008.
  13. ^
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  15. ^ Cast of Characters of Lidia's Family Table Archived February 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.; retrieved January 31, 2008.
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  20. ^ [7]
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  29. ^ Culinary Hall of Fame Induction A Diversified Business
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  40. ^ "American Public Television Online"
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