Lidia with her two children and family
Croatian-born Lidia Bastianich fled to Italy at the age of 11 with her family, as a refugee. Two years later in 1958, the family would immigrate to the US. The self-taught cook has built an empire of Italian cooking in America, starting with a family-owned restaurant in Queens, in 1971. In 1981, Lidia would create her flagship restaurant, Felidia, in New York City. She has had a regular series on PBS since 1998, and – to date – has six celebrated restaurants nationwide and several cookbooks. I have been a fan of hers since I discovered her cooking. Watching her cook was so comforting and warm; she made the food seem unpretentious and totally approachable. At the end of most episodes, I found myself inspired to spend the rest of the afternoon shopping for ingredients and cooking. And, as we all know, imitation is the highest form of flattery.
When my editor at Saveur Magazine contacted me about an assignment with Lidia in Italy, I felt like I had won the lottery. Spend a week with Lidia and her family on their vacation in Umbria? Ummmm, twist my arm…let me think about it…OKAY!!! A few weeks later, I was there with the entire Bastianich family in Umbria, making photographs and quietly observing. I don’t have to tell you that we ate very well – and meeting Lidia and her family was one of my all-time favorite assignments. Talking to Lidia about her life and her success was personally very inspiring.
In spite of a busy life and much success, at the center of Lidia’s world is her family. I’m always so moved by people who make their way in the world starting from very little: just a dream, a good work ethic, and hope. That’s Lidia!
Lidia with her grandchildren teaching them to roll dough for tortas
torta al testo