Lidia Bastianich: Food is what connects us

(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.