All in the Family: How Lidia Bastianich Combined Her Two Passions

All in the Family: How Lidia Bastianich Combined Her Two Passions
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All in the Family: How Lidia Bastianich Combined Her Two Passions

Read on to learn more about Lidia Bastianich.

Family influence on cooking

Lidia holds her mother and grandmother's cooking in high esteem. She says her grandmother imparted a profound appreciation and understanding of seasonal foods and the best products to use in the kitchen. "Great produce, beans and eggs," Lidia shares. "Simple applications. Her influence was that you could take something close to the season and [alter] it as little as possible."

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The bond with her mother

Lidia's mother has also had a great influence on her in the kitchen. Her mom, Erminia Matticchio, is 94, and lives with Lidia today. Lidia tells us that every morning her mother takes her cup of coffee and goes into the garden they have to tend to it. That appreciation for fresh and seasonal produce that Lidia's grandmother imparted has very much trickled through the family.

Image Credit: Lidia Bastianich

Getting the kids involved

Lidia says that her children grew up in the restaurant in a sense. "I opened my first [restaurant] in '71. [My husband and I] would have to work. Grandma would come up to the restaurant to help make the vegetables and the pasta, and the kids would come back from school. We would have dinner, and then they would go home with Grandma and I would stay at work," Lidia explains. She says that her kids did their homework at the restaurant often, and were very much a part of it.

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Cooking for her children

Lidia would often cook for her children when they were growing up, sometimes at the restaurant and sometimes at home. She served them whatever was in season, which included fresh vegetables in the spring and summer, and in the winter more soups and dishes like gnocchi. "They loved gnocchis," Lidia shares.

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The kids make their own (surprising) choices

Lidia never expected her children to follow in her footsteps when they grew older. "I always used to tell them, 'You don't want to do this. You're in America. You want to get a real American job,'" she reveals. "Education was very important to us. My [son] got a Masters in business and worked on Wall Street. My daughter went to Georgetown and ultimately got a PhD from Oxford in England. Now they both work for me. How did that happen?" Lidia laughs. "Somehow fate brought them back."

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Joe and Tanya join their mother

Lidia describes the time her son, Joe, and she were sitting at the bar at her restaurant Felidia, when Joe told her that he was unhappy in his job on Wall Street. When she asked him what would make him happy, he said, "You know, I think I would love to do what you do with restaurants." Within six months, they opened Becco in New York City together. "[There's] still a line out the door every single night," Lidia says.

Lidia says that her daughter, Tanya, was in the middle of her thesis and a professorship when she met her husband. When they decided they wanted to start a family, they chose to move closer to Lidia. As Lidia describes, Tanya was a "researcher by nature," and began helping her mother with research for her books. "I just loved it," Lidia says. "She knew Italian and she traveled with me. That's how she began researching for the books, and now she co-authored the last four books with me," Lidia says. Lidia and Tanya now own a TV production company together that produces Lidia's shows.

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Memories of family as a child

"I recall a big table in my grandmother's kitchen. Maybe because I was small it felt huge, but it seemed big," says Lidia. She also remembers pulling the table outside in the summertime, where there was plenty of food, family and wine always around. "I would always recall laughing, joking. A lot of times we would end up [singing] songs, traditional songs on Sundays. Us kids would go [to and from] the table, run around and play hide and seek and then come back for more," Lidia shares.

Image Credit: Brad Barket via Getty Images Entertainment

The tradition continues

Lidia's been sure to continue that tradition of sharing meals around the dinner table with her family today. The table she uses in her kitchen every day fits 12 people. "There's no mini table for us," she says. Even though now it's sometimes just her mother and she eating there, the whole family frequently comes over on the weekends. "I need to have the space for everybody. It's about family meals, it's about generations getting together. It's about passing heritage, talking about it," Lidia explains. "Now I get it more with my grandchildren [saying]... 'Tell us the story of when you were a little girl, what did you do?' All those stories of me and my grandmother and milking the goat and running to get the warm eggs from the chicken to make the pasta or to make dessert... They love to hear those stories," she says.

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Passing on the family business

So does Lidia want the business to continue with her grandchildren? "You know, that's up to them. My children are well into it," Lidia says. "What's happening of course is they're choosing what they want to do and grow, and that is absolutely correct... Will their children, my grandchildren, continue? I see interest in some more than the others, but I think the most important [thing] is for them to get that education and evolve in what they feel their energy and their talent is."

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Lidia's advice for other families

One of the things that Lidia's viewers acknowledge a lot in their emails to the celeb chef is the importance of family. "You know, you just make it a habit to have food and put it on the table," Lidia advises. "Whether there's two or there's four. The weekend [might become] larger groups, but that table is important. That table has bread, it has some wine, it has water, it has some food, salad, whatever." Lidia stresses the importance of sitting down and communicating with your family while sharing whatever's on the table. It doesn't have to be a special occasion.

She also shares that even if you buy prepared food because you're short on time, you should still make time to sit down with that food. "Reheat it, but don't put it on the table in the container that it came," she says. "Put it on a plate. Add a salad to it and whatever you want to put in a glass, and some bread and just sit down. Because at the table, the communication, the transmission of emotions, of information, is a very, very special place. And families really need that place to... talk to children. Because at the table, not only do you talk pleasure and chit chat, but also serious conversations happen. When you eat you're relaxed, you're kind of taking in the food to nurture you. The children will also listen and take in wisdom of the elders. So that's a great opportunity not to waste, and it doesn't have to be a four-course meal all the time."

Image Credit: Lidia Bastianich


Lidia Bastianich loves cooking and she loves family—so much so that she's built a career around both. The Emmy-winning chef has seen success in her restaurants, television series, cookbooks and pasta and sauce line. In the midst of it all, her two children, Joe and Tanya, became involved, and now the business is a family affair. (You've probably seen her son Joe on cooking competition show MasterChef.) For Lidia, the dinner table is where important family bonding occurs, so to join food with family and her career in the culinary world seems only natural.

Check out the slideshow above to learn about how Lidia Bastianich combines her passions for family and food. Then, learn 10 facts you didn't know about the chef, and discover what she'd bring with her to a deserted island!

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