(CBS News) Lidia Bastianich is a chef who's written the book on Italian cooking -- several, in fact. Martha Teichner reports:
Something unusual happens when Lidia Bastianich publishes a cookbook, which she just did -- her ninth.
How often do you see kids willing to stand in a long, long line with their mothers and grandmothers to see a chef?
Just about everybody wants a picture. She's a rock star in the food world -- but her fans, they ask after family:
"How's mama doing?" one fan asks.
"She's fine, yeah," replied Bastianich.
And in fine form, at 93.
Erminia Motika is known by practically everybody -- even Lidia, her daughter -- as Grandma . . . nonna in Italian.
Nonna lives with Lidia in the New York City borough of Queens. Tanya, Lidia's daughter, and her family, live two blocks away.
Family and food are inseparable with Lidia Bastianich . . . her brand, really.
After 15 years on PBS, audiences have gotten to know even her grandchildren.
Lidia is famous for her simple, user-friendly Italian recipes. But she's a major league celebrity chef, because she seems to feed a hunger in people for more than food.
"I feel that they kind of want to enter into my life, with what I'm doing," she told Teichner, "and it's that I sort of maybe facilitate them doing the same thing. 'Oh, when I see you at the table, when I see your grandchildren, that's what I remember [with] my mother, my grandmother."
Her own grandmother, Nonna Rosa, inspired her passion for food.
"It goes back to when we left Istria and I never said goodbye to my grandmother, because I didn't know I wasn't gonna go back," Bastianich said. "And I stayed connected with food. I would bring my grandmother with me at the table with the food that I cooked, the food that she cooked."
Istria, Lidia's birthplace, was part of Italy until it was swallowed up by Communist Yugoslavia at the end of World War II. Her family fled, and after two years at a refugee camp came to the United States when she was 12.
At 24 she and her then-husband opened a small restaurant. Nine tables. Lidia was sous chef.
"I realized that maybe this is what I enjoy doing, I love doing, to feed the people and make them happy," she said. "That gave me pleasure."
She made her name as chef at Felidia in Manhattan, still the flagship of the seven restaurants she has now.
Add to that the cookbooks, the television production company, the wineries in Italy -- just some of the food-related enterprises she owns with either with her son, Joe, or her daughter, Tanya.
It's one big family business . . . very big.
Their latest project, with their longtime partner, chef Mario Batali (and others), is Eataly -- 50,000 square feet of Italy in the middle of Manhattan.
By its own count, Eataly attracts more than 5 million people a year, more than the Empire State Building. Another one is about to open in Chicago.
Here, too, a Lidia sighting is a big deal.
There's almost a disconnect between that Lidia, the renowned chef who was invited to cook for the pope, and Lidia the immigrant girl, who missed her grandmother and went to find her in food.
"You can't help yourself," Teichner remarked as Bastrianich handled the pasta at Eataly.
"I love it, I love touching food. It talks to me. I can already see how long it would take to cook, I could see the eggs in there . . . I need to touch the food.
"Food, you know, tells us who we are, where we come from. It connects us, it expresses emotion. It expresses care, it expresses love."
is why Lidia ends her television shows with an invitation to eat: Tutti a
tavola a mangiare.
Sample these recipes from Lidia Bastinaich:
Chef Lidia Bastianich's Minestrone
Chef Lidia Bastianich on how to roast a turkey
Grouper with Peppers and Potatoes
Quince, Cranberry and Apple Sauce
Lidia Bastianich's Winter Squash
Potato and Wild Mushroom Gratin
Baked Stuffed Shells
Yellow Squash Pie
2013 "Food Show" Recipe Index - Holiday recipes and delicious menu suggestions from top chefs and the editors of Food and Wine Magazine -- including many dishes featured on this year's Food Issue!
For more info:
- "Lidia's Commonsense Italian Cooking" by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali (Knopf); Also available in eBook format