Another venture is cooking for chef/author Lidia Bastianich

July 12, 2006|By GREG MORAGO | GREG MORAGO,HARTFORD COURANT

There are many familiar faces you encounter at the magazine rack who want themselves in your home: Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey and now Rachael Ray. But no face is as genuinely warm or as lovingly motherly as Lidia Bastianich's.

The chef and cookbook author again graces a lifestyle magazine on the newsstands through Aug. 22. Lidia: Italy at Home ($5.99) is Bastianich's partnership with Meredith Corp., which publishes subscription titles such as Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal.

In the limited-edition magazine, Bastianich takes readers in her warm embrace, sharing recipes, pantry tips and entertaining advice in a casual, familial voice that has won her a loyal audience.

Fans of her cooking shows on public television (Lidia's Family Table), her restaurants (Felidia, Becco and Esca in New York, to name a few) and her cookbooks (including Lidia's Italian Table and Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen) will have even more of Lidia to celebrate next year. She is filming a new cooking show as a companion to Lidia's Italy, a new cookbook due from Knopf in April 2007.

We caught up with Bastianich by telephone on her way to the airport for a trip to Italy to film a segment of her new cooking series. What does the new show focus on?

It's a series to go along with a new book about my favorite places in Italy - places I go back to for food, people, art. Each chapter will have 15 to 20 recipes. The reader can read about these places and, ultimately, taste it by cooking along with me. It's time I took my readers on a trip with me. We'll visit places like Campo di Fiore in Rome, Puglia, Campagna and Napoli. You're such a busy person. Why the magazine now?

It's an opportunity that came to me. There's a saying in Italian, "When the fruit is ripe, it will fall off the tree." So it seems that the time was right with Meredith, with whom I had a long relationship. I feel very committed to my audience out there. It's sharing my Italy, my philosophy and my experiences. I'm trying to reach across the board like I do with my television audience. You're involved in so many restaurants, the cooking show, the cookbooks. How do you do it all?

I have to prioritize. It's all about the team. I'm really lucky enough to have my son and my daughter (Joseph Bastianich and Tanya Manuali Bastianich) to work with. They grew up with it. In all my restaurants, it's about having a good team. Italian cookbooks, cooking shows and cooking magazines aren't exactly scarce. What more is there to discover about Italian cooking?

I was born in Italy and when I go for a visit, I come back with loads of information. There's an endless resource because of the country's originality and diversity. There's so much there. And plus, cuisines evolve. I go back there and see how it's evolved in its birthplace and I see how I can I bring that back to the States. But there's a difference in the deliverance. It's the coloratura, the texture. It's what you can bring to it. Where are you most comfortable?

With my family. My family is where I get my energy. It's my center. Without them I would be a different person. Not in the kitchen?

I feel most comfortable, I guess, when I have actual product in my hands and in front of me. From there, my senses take over. I can tell you how it feels, the history. I love what I do.

Greg Morago writes for the Hartford Courant.

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