cover image My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family, and Food

My American Dream: A Life of Love, Family, and Food

Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. Knopf, $28.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-5247-3161-8

Chef and restaurateur Bastianich (Lidia’s Celebrate Like an Italian) offers a look into her culinary background in this charming memoir. Bastianich grew up in the former Yugoslavia under Communist rule and spent two years in an Italian refugee camp before immigrating to America with her family in 1958. While recounting youthful hardships—always from an optimistic point of view—Bastianich includes fond food memories, such as gathering wild asparagus, catching branzino with a favorite uncle, and working in the Queens bakery owned by actor Christopher Walken’s father. She also chronicles the history of her Upper East Side restaurant, Felidia, and lovingly follows her children’s entry into the food business—Joe as the founder and owner of Manhattan restaurant Becco and co-owner of Babbo and Lupa, and Tanya as the head of Bastianich’s Tavola Productions. “The cornerstone of my life has always been food: growing it, sometimes not having enough of it, preparing it, and relishing the many tastes and smells,” Bastianich writes. Whether recalling her lean years in Yugoslavia, cooking with Julia Child, or reeling in sockeye salmon during an Alaskan fishing trip with one of her grandchildren, Bastianich passionately evokes the concept that food is life. Through her lyrical prose, she also encourages readers to find the bright side of any situation. This is a welcome addition to any food lover’s library. (Apr.)