Lidia's Italy in America by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich

Mon, 08/01/2016 - 9:44am -- JDavanza

 On March 21, 2016 the library's cookbook club met for dinner with Lidia Matticchio Bastianich's cookbook, Lidia's Italy in America. The book was published in 2011 by Alfred A. Knopf and co-authored by Lidia's daughter Tanya.


Lidia was born in Pula, Istria, a peninsula that in 1947 when she was born belonged to Italy, and then became part of Yugoslavia in a communist takeover, and is now a part of Croatia. Her family arrived in the United States in 1958 leaving behind their refugee status to live in North Bergen, New Jersey and later Queens, New York.

Queens is where she opened her first restaurant in 1971 and a second restaurant not long after, with her husband Felice. In 1981 she opened her third restaurant in Manhattan and as of 2016 she runs four New York City restaurants - Felidia, Becco, Esca, and Del Posto, along with Lidia's Pittsburgh and Lidia's Kansas City with her daughter Tanya. She co-owns Eataly, a retail-restaurant complex with locations in New York City, Chicago, and Sao Paolo, Brazil with her son Joe, Mario Batali, and Oscar Farinetti. Lidia describes her business on page 189 by saying, "Americans are ever more knowledgeable and appreciative of traditional Italian food and products, and at Eataly we deliver just that: the authenticity of Italian products, Italian cooked meals, and the Italian lifestyle." Her daughter Tanya helped her develop a line of pasta and sauces, and her son Joe helped her develop Bastianich wines.

She is the author of over a dozen cookbooks, including a children’s picture book series called, Nonna Tell Me a Story. Her most recent cookbook is, Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine published in 2015.

Lidia is probably best known as a television personality on PBS where she's cooked with her mother Erminia in Lidia's Family Table. Since 1998 other series include, Lidia's Italian Table, Lidia's Italy, Lidia's Italy in America, and Lidia's Kitchen. Many of her cookbooks have been born out of her TV series. She is the host of the PBS special, Lidia Celebrates America. She ends each episode of her shows with an invitation to join her for a family meal, "Tutti a tavola a mangiare!" or "Everyone to the table to eat!"

The book pays a visit to the cities in America where Italian Americans are thriving. We get to learn how Italian Americans are making their mark on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx and Little Italy in NYC; in the sardine industry in San Diego; their wines in Sonoma County; on the streets of Philadelphia, New Orleans, the Outer NY Boroughs, Pittsburgh, North and South Jersey, San Francisco, Baltimore, Providence, Gloucester in Massachusetts, Boston, Kansas City; and in the farms of southern California.

Lidia actually travels to all of these places, and gives a loving portrait of the Italian Americans in each locale. We learn about the families growing artichokes and broccoli rabe, paired with photos of the family with Lidia out in the fields. Or a spotlight on the Cookbook Club's local city, Providence where Lidia highlights Caffe Dolce Vita, Antonelli Poultry, Constantino's Venda Ravioli, and Luigi Carchia who serenades her in Piazza De Pasquale. This story is paired with a photo of her daughter Tanya enjoying a cappuccino and Italian pastry on Federal Hill.

The cookbook is organized traditionally with chapters on:

  • Antipasti
  • Zuppe
  • Sandwiches and Pizza
  • Salads
  • Pasta
  • Vegetables and Sides
  • Seafood
  • Meat
  • Desserts

Within the chapters she highlights places mentioned above and excites the senses with her passion and knowledge of Italian American cooking. Each recipe has an introduction that goes something like this for Stuffed Artichokes on page 164, "Italians love their artichokes in a thousand ways, and stuffed with seasoned bread crumbs is a favorite...It was often an appetizer on the menu of Italian American restaurants in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, and most likely the first way many Americans tasted artichokes Italian-style..."

At the end of the book, Lidia includes a listing of some of the iconic Italian Clubs and Organizations in the United States and a directory of the episodes from season 1 and 2 of her PBS series Lidia's Italy in America.

Club Rating: 4.3

Club Comments:

"I enjoy Lidia's cooking. It reminds me of growing up and the food served." -C.P.

"I enjoyed them even more than I thought that I would. They were (mostly) on the richer side, but very tasty. The family really liked the dishes as well." -H.M.

"Simple for the most part; versions of things a little different than usual, e.g. zeppoles were fried with mascarpone/ricotta filling. Have made several of the recipes and they are reliable. I liked the stories, but the book seems to jump around. The recipes following the stories aren't necessarily connected to the story. Enjoyed reading it." -T.H.

"Enjoyed her down-to-Earth approach." -M.G.

"Very nice and easy to follow! This cookbook was a journey across America seeking the best in Italian cooking. Lots of anecdotes and background information." -E.T.

"A great travelogue of food." - L.O.  

13 out of 16 club members had heard of Lidia before, many from watching her show on PBS. One remarked that she didn't realize the extent of Lidia's empire until reading the book (all of the restaurants and the wine). 15 out of 16 club members would recommend the book to a friend.

"I am the product of two of the greatest cultures in the world, Italy and America" Lidia proudly proclaims on page 251. Lidia lives in New York and Tanya lives with her husband Corrado and their children in New York.

Selected Recipes


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