Italian Icon: Lidia Bastianich Coming to Pittsburgh
The iconic chef, restaurateur and PBS cooking show host visits Pittsburgh for an epic meal in celebration of her new cookbook.
PHOTO BY DIANA DELUCIA
Lidia Bastianich, the famed chef, restaurateur and PBS cooking show host, is returning to Pittsburgh on January 24th to host a 5-course, family-style dinner at her Strip District restaurant Lidia’s Pittsburgh. The dinner’s menu is a celebration of recipes from her new book, Lidias Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine: Everything You Need To Know To Be A Great Italian Cook.
“A dinner like this is also a way to inspire people to cook for themselves. They have eaten it. They have a feeling for what it should be. They have tastes and the textures. Now they can make it,” Bastianich says.
The antipasto course will include dishes such as baccala mantecato (whipped salt cod), arancini and celery stalks stuffed with gorgonzola and apples. The primi course will feature celery root, apple, arugula and walnut salad, escarole and white bean soup, and a few other dishes. Ricotta manicotti in a light tomato sauce and spaghetti trapanese with shrimps and calamari are on the menu for the pasta course, and the secondi course will be a tableful of dishes including cabbage rolls, beef short rib braised in beer and grilled polenta. If you’re still hungry, there’s a dolce of roasted pears and grapes with zabaglione.
The book, co-authored with her daughter Tanya Bastianich Manuali, is a compendium of wisdom from Bastianich’s years of working as a chef and as a teacher. “Curiosity and opportunity let you accumulate knowledge. This is my 11th book, and this one gets to the root of it all,” she says.
There are recipes — about 400 of them — but this book goes significantly deeper than a look at twice and then forget it coffee table cookbook. It’s rounded out by a lengthy, detailed section focusing on ingredients, a handy glossary and a practical guide to Italian culture and language, plus a bunch of helpful kitchen tips and techniques. It’s just about as useful a book as you could ask for if you were interested in Italian cookery. Or, really, cooking in general. Bastianich says that when you fall in love with an ingredient outside of your wheelhouse it’s folly to ignore it. For example, she say, “Avocado is not an Italian product, but I love avocado. I make a mean tuna salad with avocado.”
She’s also quick to point out that even though many trends feel very of-the-moment they are almost always rooted in tradition. When I mentioned her inclusion of edible flowers in the ‘ingredients’ section, she said, “It’s not nearly as contemporary as it feels. I’d do that with my grandmother. Food goes in cycles.”
Visual interpretations of dishes are also cyclical, which is why Bastianich decided to not include them in Lidias Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine. “Photographs put you in a time period. I don’t want that. I want people to really get into the recipes themselves. Understand it, cook it and let the products shine. They don’t need to copy what’s in a photograph,” she says.
It’s a worthwhile read. “I wrote it with my family in mind. Something for them to have as a reference for future generations,” she says.
Bastianich will be at Lidia’s Pittsburgh to talk about the book at the dinner on the 24th. The meal is $55 plus tax and gratuity, with an additional charge for pairings of Bastianich wine. To make reservations, call 412-552-0150.