After 25 years of cooking on public television, chef Lidia Bastianich has received many emails from viewers.
“Forever they're asking me what are … your family's favorite recipes?” Bastianich said on Boston Public Radio on Thursday. So in her 16th cookbook, “Lidia's From Our Family Table to Yours,” the seven-time James Beard Award winner shares the answer to that perennial question.
“This is the book that is actually four generations of our family, and food that we cook regularly,” Bastianich said.
There are recipes from her grandmother Nonna Rosa, who she left behind in Italy, plus from Bastianich’s mother, who passed away two years ago. There are also contemporary recipes from her children and grandchildren.
“I even have a kale salad,” she said.
The cookbook includes standard recipe categories like antipasti and salads, fish, vegetables and desserts, plus “lots of soup, lots of pasta — because we really enjoy pasta,” she said.
And this year, Bastianich is sharing more than just recipes. A new hourlong PBS documentary chronicles her personal story. "25 Years With Lidia: A Culinary Jubilee" will follow Bastianich’s life in post-WWII Italy and her journey to the United States. She spent two years in a refugee camp in Trieste, Italy, before moving to Queens, New York, at the age of 12. It was there, in the neighborhood of Astoria, that Bastianich met actor Christopher Walken. At the time, Walken was the teenage son of Bastianich’s neighbor, Paul Walken, who ran a bakery.
“Walken's bakery was really popular in Astoria,” she said. Bastianich worked in the bakery on the weekends with the three Walken boys.
“I made the boxes … they drove the wedding cakes to different venues,” she said. It was Christopher Walken’s job to fill the donuts with jelly, but “sometimes he would mess it up,” Bastianich said, laughing. The two remain friends today.
Then, of course, there’s her rise to become an Emmy Award-winning public television host and restaurateur.
A whole generation has grown up watching Lidia on television.
“It's wonderful to see … my interaction with and communicating to my adoptive culture, which is America,” Bastianich said. “I love it. And I love to share my Italian heritage with my American.”