by Malcolm Jolley
I asked Lidia Bastianich, in the video interview below, what piece of advice she would give to a young restaurateur just starting out. The answer was as surprising as it seemed solid. And why not? Here is America’s Queen of Italian Cuisine, at the height of her powers and in the middle of a family business that includes her spree successful restaurants, bestselling cookbooks, internationally watched television programs, critically celebrated wines, guided tours of Italy and most recently a line of pastas and sauces. And it all started from a small restaurant in Queen’s, New York.
Bastianich was in town at the invitation of All The Best Fine Foods, which sells her gourmet pasta line at their Summerhill store and The Vine-Robert Groh Agency, which brings the Bastianich family’s wines into Ontario. The two of them had teamed up with The Cookbook Store to host a book signing, food sampling and wine tasting afternoon at All The Best, but Ontario’s liquor laws wouldn’t allow it, so the appearance (which was packed to the rafters with a line-up around the corner) was dry
Lucky for me, and a small number of wine press, restaurateurs that carry Bastianich wines and executives from TLN Telelatino, which airs ‘Lidia’s Italy‘ in Canada, The Vine hosted a sit down tasting and lunch at L’Unita. Lunch, which combined beautiful Ontario ingredients with Italian technique, was overseen by a very proud and just a little nervous co-owner David Minicucci who told me his siblings used to tease him for watching Lidia’s shows when he was a kid. It was clearly an honour for him to have a hero in his restaurant, and when Lidia got up to say a few words, she thanked him explicitly reminding the hospitality crowd that even after 40 successful years in the restaurant business, her restaurants were only ever as good as the last meal they served.
The wines, from both the Bastianich vineyard in Friuli and their co-venture with Mario Batali, La Mozza in the Maremma region of Tuscany showed beautifully, particularly, I thought, the Friulano (once called ‘Tocai’ before EU regulations restricted the name to Hungary). The PLUS, which retails for about $46 was just slightly off-dry with a beautiful lemony sustained noted of tartness achieved a kind off Platonic ideal for (long) lunch wine, and The Bastianich Friulano (which is priced to sell at $19.95) was crisper but gave up an amazing lavender bouquet, so I kept going back to it with my nose. Sadly, these wines are not carried by the LCBO’s stores*, but they can be ordered by the case from The Vine. If you haven’t had them in Lidia’s or (son) Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali’s restaurants in New York, Las Vegas or LA, try them in Toronto restaurants like L’Unita and Malena, Grano, Noce, Aria and Trattoria Nervosa (and soon enough, Gusto).
Can’t see the video? Click here.
Visit www.lidiasitaly.com for more information on Lidia Bastianich.
*Why the millions of voting wine drinkers of this province continue to allow a handful of bureaucrats decide which labels they may or may not pick up off a store shelf on the way home from work is beyond me. If the LCBO doesn’t want to sell a wine, then someone else ought to be able to without fear of landing in jail, in my humble opinion.
Malcolm Jolley is a founding editor of Good Food Revolution and Executive Director of Good Food Media, the non-profit organization that publishes GFR. Follow him at twitter.com/malcolmjolley. Photo: John Gundy. This video is made possible through the kind support of Fortessa Canada/Schott Zwiesel: casual elegance for everyday living.