Lidia Bastianich

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Lidia Matticchio Bastianich

Bastianich at the National Book Festival in September 2010
Born(1947-02-21) February 21, 1947 (age 65)
Pula, Croatia (then Italy)
Cooking styleItalian
Official website
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Lidia Matticchio Bastianich

Bastianich at the National Book Festival in September 2010
Born(1947-02-21) February 21, 1947 (age 65)
Pula, Croatia (then Italy)
Cooking styleItalian
Official website

Lidia Matticchio Bastianich (born on February 21, 1947, in Pula, Croatia (then part of Italy)), is an American chef, television host, author, and restaurateur.

Specializing in Italian and Italian-American cuisine, Lidia has been a regular contributor to public television cooking show lineups since 1998. In 2011, she launched her fourth TV series, Lidia's Italy in America. She also 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

Lidia Matticchio Bastianich was born on February 21, 1947, in Pula, 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.[1] Hours later, Vittorio himself left Yugoslavia under cover of darkness and crossed the border into Italy.[1] Their departure was part of the larger Istrian exodus.

The Matticchio family reunited in Trieste, Italy,[2] 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 Bastianich 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 Lidia in a PBS documentary, although a wealthy Triestian family hired Lidia's 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.[2] In 1958, unlike the earlier groups of World War II refugees whose journeyed to their adoptive homelands by "liberty ships" that took at least seven days to arrive at their destinations in North and South America, the Bastianich family had the good fortune to reach New York City by airplane.[2][3]

Bastianich gives credit to the family's new roots in America to their sponsor, Catholic Charities:[2][3][4]

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.[4]

After a few weeks, the family moved to North Bergen, New Jersey, near the Chevrolet factory where Lidia's father began working as a mechanic. Later, they moved to Astoria, Queens, where they had family, friends, and relatives living in a large enclave of fellow Istrian immigrants. Lidia 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 in local Italian restaurants.[5]

At her sweet sixteen birthday party, she was introduced to her future husband, Felice "Felix" Bastianich, 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 1971.


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 Lidia 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, Lidia 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 Lidia both gained the attention of local food critics and started to give live cooking demonstrations, a prelude to her future career as a TV cooking show hostess.

In 1981, Lidia'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, which they converted 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[6] 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,[7] and Lidia's Pittsburgh.[7]

In 1993, Julia Child invited Lidia to tape an episode of her PBS 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 Lidia 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 1997. Lidia continued expanding her business while Felice remarried and transferred his shares in the business to their two children. He died on December 12, 2010.

By the late 1990s, Lidia's restaurants had evolved into a truly family-owned and operated enterprise. Lidia's mother, Erminia Motika, maintained the large garden behind the family home, from which Lidia 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. Lidia'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 (Supervising Producer of Lidia'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.[8]

In 2010, Lidia 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. Lidia 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".[9]

Television (1998–present)

In 1998, PBS offered Lidia her own TV series which became Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen. It established her as a fixture in the network's line-up of cooking-shows. Since then she has hosted four additional public television series, including Lidia's Family Table, Lidia's Italy, and Lidia's Italy in America. Currently, is also hosting a series of hour-long PBS specials called Lidia Celebrates America. Lidia 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").[10] She also appeared on an episode of the 2006 PBS series Chef's Story.

In 2000, Lidia 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.

For the 2010 holiday season, Lidia's new TV 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 Lidia.[11]

Lidia has also been a featured chef on Great Chefs Television series and has been a guest judge on Top Chef. [12][13]

In 2011, Lidia was featured as a guest judge on the second season of the American TV show MasterChef.

Books (1990-present)

Lidia has authored several cookbooks to accompany her television series:

In the fall of 2010 Lidia published her first children's book, Nonna Tell Me A Story: Lidia's Christmas Kitchen.

A Diversified Business

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, Lidia launched Nonna Foods as a platform to distribute an array of both existing and new LIDIA’S food products. Together with her son Joseph, Lidia also produces award-winning wines at Bastianich Vineyard in Friuli and La Mozza Vineyard in Maremma, Italy.[14][11]

Personal life

Lidia resides in Queens, New York, with her mother, Erminia Matticchio. Lidia's own kitchen has served as the stage set for all four of her TV 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 Lidia's TV series.

Joe Bastianich occasionally appears in Lidia's series to offer wine expertise. He, his wife Deanna, and their three children live in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Tanya Bastianich Manuali, with her husband Corrado Manuali and their two children, lives just a few blocks away from Lidia. Tanya serves as the main on-camera cultural expert for all the segments of Lidia's PBS series that are filmed in Italy.

In an interview by American Public Television, Lidia shared her opinion on how important it is for her to pass family traditions to her family:

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.[15]


  1. ^ a b Author Interview”, Lidia’s Italy. Random House, Inc., online catalogue. (Retrieved 2009-07-31)
  2. ^ a b c d Lidia Bastianich to Receive Bpeace Economic Impact Award. Press Release. Business Council for Peace, April 29, 2008. (Retrieved 2009-08-01.)
  3. ^ a b Fernandez, Tommy. “Chef Lights Fire Under Millions: Lidia Bastianich”, Crain’s 100 Most Influential Women in NYC Business. (Retrieved 2009-08-01.)
  4. ^ a b Rosenberg, Sarah and Christina Caron. “Nightline Plate List: Lidia Bastianich: Italian-American Chef Breaks Bread with the PopeNightline. ABC News. April 20, 2008. (Retrieved 2009-08-01)
  5. ^
  6. ^ Passing the Toque: For a New Generation, Hospitality Is Destiny, Suzanne Hamlin, published January 10, 1996; retrieved February 1, 2008.
  7. ^ a b "Lidia Bastianich Navigator" from
  8. ^ Cast of Characters of Lidia's Family Table; retrieved January 31, 2008.
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ Chef of the Month Club: Lidia Bastianich; retrieved January 31, 2008.
  11. ^ a b [2]
  12. ^ Great Chefs Television
  13. ^ [3]
  14. ^ [4]
  15. ^ "American Public Television Online"

External links