In Italy Lidia Bastianich might be known as “Joe’s mom”, but in the United States, it’s the other way around. Joe Bastianich, Italy’s Masterchef judge and food personality is the son, and one of two children, to have grown successful enterprises, rooted in the ethos of their mother’s culinary empire, built from sacrifice, hard work, and passion. A refugee, Lidia Matticchio was born on February 21, 1947 in Pola, Istria, living what seem to be an idyllic childhood, not realizing that being Italian was incredibly dangerous at the time. Italians were facing violence or death during the Foibe massacres, occurring near the end of World War II which led to the “Istrian Exodus.” Families were forced to change their names, their language, and even religion or faced fleeing as Lidia and her family did in 1956 where they spent two years in a refugee camp in “the Risiera di San Sabba”, in dismal bunkhouses, formerly a Nazi concentration camp. But in the darkest of places, Lidia found her salvation. In 1958, having spent two years working in the kitchen with the nuns at her school in the camp, she was sponsored by Catholic Charities and she, along with her family boarded a plane to New York.
Lidia reflects often on food memories from 1958 when she moved to New York with her family. From a desire to reconnect with her old world life, a time she spent close to the land in her grandmother’s backyard, in vineyards, orchards, and even courtyards, she was inspired to keep cooking, to remain close to her heritage and also her grandmother. Now an Emmy award-winning public television host, best-selling cookbook author, restaurateur, and head of multiple food, wine and entertainment enterprises, Lidia has brought together her two passions, her love of family and of food. It is no secret that the godmother of Italian-American cuisine loves all things pasta. She also has her own line of seven original varieties of homemade pasta sauce and eight different cuts of pasta. She and son Joe Bastianich also produce award-winning wines at Bastianich Vineyard based in Friuli and at La Mozza Vineyard in Maremma, Italy.
Known first for her award-winning television series Lidia’s Italy in America, she went on to host a bevy of other hit series including Lidia’s Italy as well as Lidia’s Family Table , Lidia’s Italian- American Kitchen, Lidia’s Italian Table, and La Cucina di Lidia . Companion cookbooks Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy and Lidia’s Italy were later released, brimming with recipes from the show. Lidia’s first children’s books Nonna Tell Me a Story: Lidia’s Christmas Kitchen , was inspired by her five grandchildren along with the second installation in the series, Lidia’s Family Kitchen: Nonna’s Birthday Surprise.
Adding to her legacy, Lidia Bastianich along with her son Joseph Bastianich, chef Mario Batali, and Oscar Farinetti is also co-owner Eataly. In addition, she has four acclaimed New York City restaurants Felidia, Becco, Esca and Del Posto , she has also ventured into smaller American cities with her restaurant concept, Lidia’s Pittsburgh and Lidia’s Kansas City. The wildly successful culinary entrepreneur can also count Producer under belt as the founder and president of Tavola Productions , an entertainment production company.
The world of Lidia is all-encompassing. She was the first to teach the United States what it means to eat Italian, from how to use olive oil, to how to eat breakfast like an Italian, and even to how to properly mix pasta and sauce, giving viewers cooking tips and reminders like to always turn off the flame before adding parmesan when mixing the cheese into a pasta dish. At the end of her show, she famously invites viewers in Italian to join her at the table “tutti a tavola a mangiare!”
Lidia is a member of Les Dames D’Escoffier and founding member of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, two non-profit organizations of women leaders in the food and hospitality industries. She is also a champion for the United Nations Association of the United States of America’s Adopt-A-Future program, in support of refugee education. She has earned seven James Beard Awards (Outstanding Chef, Television Food Show, Best Chefs in America, Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America, Specials 2016, Special 2017 and 2018), and two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Culinary Host (2013 and 2018).