Lidia Bastianich is an Emmy award‐winning public television host, a best‐selling cookbook author, restaurateur, and owner of a flourishing food and entertainment business. Lidia has married her two passions in life – her family and food, to create multiple culinary endeavors alongside her two children, Joseph and Tanya. Lidia is the chef/owner of four acclaimed New York City restaurants ‐ Felidia, Becco, Esca and Del Posto, as well as Lidia’s Pittsburgh and Lidia’s Kansas City along with her daughter Tanya. She is also founder and president of Tavola Productions, an entertainment company that produces high quality broadcast productions. 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. Along with her son, Joe Bastianich, Mario Batali, and Oscar Farinetti, the team opened Eataly, the largest artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace in New York City and Chicago. Lidia also has a line of pastas and all natural sauces called LIDIA’S.
How did you get into the restaurant industry?
I have always been involved with food, even as a small girl I would accompany my grandmother to the local market to sell her fruits, vegetables and eggs.
As I grew older, I began working in a school kitchen cleaning vegetables with the nuns near Trieste. After arriving in America at the age of twelve, I found myself always gravitating to the kitchen. My mother worked a very long day, and I was typically left in charge of dinner that she had prepped earlier in the morning. As a young teenager, I began working at the local bakery at the front although I found myself constantly gravitating to the back to help out with the pastries and cakes. Soon after getting married, my husband, who worked as a restaurant manager, decided that we should open a restaurant, and I was ready to jump in. We hired an Italian American chef to run the kitchen, and I worked the floor, behind the bar and ultimately became the sous chef in the kitchen. I learned his Italian American flavors while introducing to him and to our customers some of my favorite foods, the regional Italian recipes.
What are the most popular dishes at Felidia and which is your personal favorite?
Felidia has always been known for its seasonal, authentic regional Italian food. I adore soups and one of my favorites it the “minestra di pesce.” In the spring, I love the salads and appetizers that use the best of the season such as the string bean, pickled ramp salad served with housemade ricotta, tomato vinaigrette and almonds. Two of our signature dishes, that are found all year round, and still on the top of my list are the octopus salad and the delicious “cacio e pere” pasta, heavenly and light ravioli stuffed with fresh pecorino and pear.
How do you stay successful within such a volatile and competitive industry?
Quality is key to staying successful. Diners need to have an experience, with food, service and atmosphere, and feel satisfied with the value of their experience and content with the pleasure they derived from the experience.
Fresh, seasonal ingredients are essential to make delicious dishes, complimented by a rich wine list and good service, all add up to success.
How important does the design/architecture of your restaurant play into its success?
Ambiance is all part of the experience. Felidia exudes a warmth, elegant patina, enhance by the rich wood and cozy townhouse feel. It is rich in feeling. The guests feel like being in someones home, Lidia's home.
What is your life motto?
Follow your passion, be well prepared for the execution, do it with love and you will be successful and happy.
How important is location in selecting the creation of a new restaurant?
A successful restaurant needs patrons, so the location must be chosen carefully taking into account foot traffic as well as ease of the guests getting there.
What is your go-to travel destination and why?
I go back to my grandmothers house , the small courtyard I grew up in as a small girl in Istria. I recharge there. The food is so natural, seasonal and fresh, it reminds me of my childhood.
And when I go there, in season, I forage for wild asparagus, eat figs straight from the tree and fish and swim in the crystalline sea.
What's next for the Lidia Bastianich?
I still love to teach, travel and communicate with my viewers. So I hope to continue to produce more television shows, write more books and travel around the world to share my love for the Italian food and culture. This way I’ll never stop learning.