Lidia Bastianich was born on February 21, 1947 in Pula, Istria, in present-day Croatia, a region in that was once part of Italy. She immigrated to the U.S. when she was 12 and eventually married, opening up a series of restaurants with husband Felice. Bastianich has gone on to be an acclaimed chef and restaurateur, winning awards as well as hosting popular television programs. Having co-founded the large venue Eataly in 2010, Bastianich has also authored a number of books, including Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking.
Background and Early Career
Restaurateur Lidia Bastianich was born Lidia Matticchio on February 21, 1947 in the town of Pula, Istria, in present-day Croatia. Though Istria was at one point considered part of Italy, the region came under Communist sway via a Yugoslavian takeover. In 1956, Matticchio left her homeland with her family to settle in Trieste, living as refugees until they were able to immigrate to America. In the states, Matticchio attended Hunter College for a time before marrying Felice Bastianich. The two eventually opened up the restaurant Buonavia in Forest Hills, Queens. A second eatery, Villa Secondo, was launched in 1972.
Ten years later, the upscale establishment Felidia was opened in Manhattan’s East Side and became a major draw with its distinctive, acclaimed take on Italian dishes. Lidia Bastianich opened three more restaurants in New York as well as places in Kansas City and Pittsburgh. Over the years she has won multiple James Beard Foundation prizes, including the 1999 Best Chefs in America award. Bastianich was later chosen to cook for Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.
Bastianich has two children, Joseph and Tanya, who have become involved in the family business as well. (Lidia and Felice divorced in the late 1990s.) In 2010, Bastianich, along with Joseph, celebrity chef Mario Batali and businessperson Oscar Farinetti, opened up Eataly, a huge venue located in Manhattan’s Flatiron District that specializes in artisanal Italian cuisine and related fare, with culinary classes also offered. The franchise has expanded to Chicago as well as other cities across the globe.
Media Career: Books and TV
Bastianich has authored a number of books, such as Lidia Cooks From the Heart of Italy (2009), Lidia’s Italy in America (2011) and Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking (2013), with the chef having released books for children as well. She and her family have also become popular on-screen personas as seen with the programs Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen, Lidia’s Family Table and Lidia’s Italy.
Bastianich has faced public controversy with a lawsuit being filed against the restaurateur in 2011 by a family helper who said she was held in indentured servitude. Another lawsuit was issued the following year where Bastianich restaurant employees claimed a portion of their tips were held back.
Later, in 2013, Bastianich and son Joe opened up Orsone, a new eatery and bed and breakfast located in Cividale del Friuli, part of the northeastern region of Italy.
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