chef-name: Lidia Bastianich

Born February 21, 1947, Lidia Bastianich is wedded nun-like to her calling. As she talks of food and its preparation, it soon becomes obvious that for her, the service of a meal is an act of love.

Perhaps that is because the meals that she prepares are reminiscent of those cooked by her grandmother, who was her first cooking teacher. Or perhaps because her food pays tribute to her first home, Istria, a peninsula in the Adriatic Sea. Istria was once part of Italy, and today is part of Croatia.

Her restaurant, Felidia, which Lidia started in 1981 with her late husband, Felice, (hence the name) is part of an enclave of excellent Italian restaurants in New York City. Great Chefs Television caught up with Lidia in 1993, and taped her in the restaurant’s kitchen for their “Great Chefs – Great Cities” series, and later again for their one hour television special ” Great Chefs Cook Italian”.

Once she caught the TV bug (thanks to Great Chefs), she became the founder and president of Tavola Productions, an entertainment company that produces high quality broadcast productions including Lidia’s Italy, an Emmy-nominated television series. Lidia has become one of the best loved chefs on television, has written a line of cookbooks, and is now chef/owner of four acclaimed New York City restaurants, Felidia, Becco, Esca & Del Posto, as well as Lidia’s Pittsburgh, & Lidia’s Kansas City. Together with her son Joseph, she produces award-winning wines at their Bastianich Vineyards in Friuli.

The single most important quality that Lidia shares is her belief that it’s not only the food on the table that makes the meal; it’s the people who join around the table who bring the meal to life. Her signature line: “Tutti a tavola a mangiare!” means, “Everybody to the table to eat!”