Q & A With Lidia Bastianich: On Vegas, Her Next Book + Chances Of An L.A.-based Eataly
Lidia Bastianich has a successful, long-running food television career on PBS, too many cookbooks to count, a mini Italian restaurant empire, namesake retail pasta sauces, and even a new QVC ceramic cookware line (sure, why not?). Yet chat with Bastianich about her accomplishments, as we did recently, and she is refreshingly humble. Intelligent too, damn it. Maybe that's because she earned her food celebrity the old fashioned way -- after years of hard work.
flickr user pritheworld Bastianich At An Eataly Cooking Class Demo
Working is something the New York-based grandmother still does in overdrive. We caught up with Bastianich on her taxi ride from LAX to Mozza, where she was recently in town for all of 36 hours to film an episode of "MasterChef" with her son, Joe Bastianich, and Gordon Ramsey at Mozza. Or "La Mozza," as Bastianich prefers to call the restaurant by its proper Italian name. Turn the page for more on her recent visit to L.A., her next book project, and what Eataly is really all about.
Squid Ink: You're in L.A. to film "MasterChef"?
flickr user dsaproductions Bastianich And Ming Tsai On Set
Lidia Bastianich: Yes. I'm filming an episode with my son and Gordon Ramsay at La Mozza. Then I'm going to Vegas.
SI: A day of fun?
LB: No, for public TV, though Vegas is always fun, isn't it?
SI: Sure, but we usually go for vacation, not work.
LB: No vacations [laughs]. I've always got too much going on for vacation, but that's fine because I love it all.
SI: What are you working on these days?
LB: Right now I'm working on my next book, Lidia's Italy in America, and my next show. The book is coming out in October, and I am filming the cooking aspect of it for shows. Both are on Italian immigration throughout America and how people settled here, how they permeated the American business of making food.
SI: Interesting, sounds like a somewhat different angle than your past cookbooks.
LB: Yes, I became very interested in the history of Italians in America. So I am looking at foods across America, how ingredients and Italian dishes in various parts of the country are so different. Artichokes, garlic. How did Italian immigrants use them? At the end of the century, Sicilian immigrants had things like fava beans... but the Italian Swiss colony was the first one that started the wine industry in California. There are all of these distinct styles of Italian cooking that came from that.
SI: In a sense, capturing that Italian American history is the book version of what you have created with Eataly, the massive Italian food market you opened with Oscar Farinetti, Mario Batali, and your son, Joe.