Restauranteur, author, television host, wine maker, travel agent — Bastianich is all of these and more. It’s a long way from the scared girl who emigrated with her family from Italy at the end of World War II and the aftermath of Communist rule in her hometown of Istria, now part of Croatia. Thanks to Catholic Charities, her father was given a job, and the family a home in North Bergen, New Jersey. Bastianich worked in a series of bakeries and restaurants to earn money, and while she studied for a medical career, soon realized that cooking was her calling.
At a time when the majority of chefs were male, Bastianich opened her first restaurant with no experience in business or any formal training as a chef. The regional Italian foods she recreated, however, in honor of her Istrian ancestry, introduced New York diners to a new way of appreciating Italian food. Felidia Ristorante quickly earned three stars from the New York Times, and a food magnate was born.
Bastianich has passed on her love of simple, satisfying regional Italian cooking to her son, Joseph, who partnered with Mario Batali to launch Batali’s culinary career with Babbo, and has recently opened three wineries. As the proud matriarch of a growing food empire, Bastianich still lives by the principles that guided her to become a chef in the first place — that cooking, and more importantly eating, is a communal affair and meant to be enjoyed. Tutti a tavola a mangiare!
WHAT I EAT WHEN NOBODY IS LOOKING: ”Anchovies”
IF I WERE TO DIE TOMORROW, I’D WANT TO EAT TODAY: ”Linguine with white clam sauce and a glass of Vespa Bianco”
Next Patrick O’Connell