Lidia Bastianich has been described as the reigning queen of Italian cuisine in America. She is the host of cooking shows on PBS, including Lidia's Italy, a new 26-episode series which features American and Italian chefs preparing regional Italian dishes.
Bastianichs family fled Communist Istria in 1956 and became political refugees in Italy, before moving to the United States. Bastianich trained in kitchens in New York City and opened her first restaurant with her husband at the age of 24. Since then, she has opened several restaurants, including Felidia and Becco. She has also authored several cookbooks including Lidia's Family Table and Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen.
Question: What makes a great dish?
Lidia Bastianich: The elements in a great recipe really vary, again, according to culture. And each one will give you a different answer. But I think it’s, again, the prime product. You need to have as a chef . . . I need to have the best that I can – the best that nature can give me in the product. Then my work as the chef is not to alter that or to change, but to exalt it. So in doing that, I might need some condiments, which is olive oil, or butter, or whatever. I might need some seasoning to enhance it, whether it’s salt, spices, or herbs. But basically give me a good product from nature, and mostly my work is done.
Question: What is your favorite dish?
Lidia Bastianich: You know it’s difficult. It’s difficult to isolate, I think. What I would like to say is that I love cooking and eating seasonally. Therefore following the season. What does the bounty of the season bring? And I enjoy that at that given time. I think if you . . . If I were to really choose one, I must say pasta and vegetables would have to be.
Recorded on: 10/4/07