a few weeks ago i received an email:
We are co-hosting a dinner with Joe Bastianich Thursday, at 6:30 on Thursday, June 4, at ‘City House Restaurant‘ on 4th Avenue North. The dinner will feature City House’s exceptional cuisine paired with Joe’s wonderful wines. Seating is very limited, so let us know as soon as possible if you would like to attend.
i immediately rsvp’d, yes + 1.
as you most likely know, joe bastianich’s mom is lidia of famed ‘felidia‘, and the writer of no less than 5 of some of the best italian cookbooks around. it was lidia bastianich who was requested to cook for the pope when he was recently in nyc. she prepared his lunch and dinner each day, some of what would have been typical dishes from his childhood in germany. joe was his server – which he described as somewhat of an out-of-body experience… a greater honor could not have been bestowed on this italian (via croatia) – american family.
but before any of this, back in 1971, lidia and her husband opened their first restaurant, ‘buonavia’, on queens boulevard in forest hills where i grew up, about 6 blocks from our apartment on yellowstone blvd. joe used to work there when he was a little boy and my family used to eat there as it was by far the best italian in town, kicking the competion ‘la stella’s’ culinary ass. i remember the limos parked out front… these are kind of memories that stay with a kid.
then came ‘felidia‘ in ’81, right around the corner from my dad’s art gallery on 58th and 3rd. and again, we ate there often. i grew up on lidia bastianich’s cooking, so it’s no wonder that i know and love great italian food.
joe grew up to become a rock star restaurateur, opening his first restaurant, ‘becco‘ at just 23 – a menu scattered with page references to recipes in lydia’s cookbooks. he and mario batali have been partners for 10 years now in about a dozen restaurants all over the country. and in 2005 joe won the james beard foundation’s ‘outstanding wine and spirits professional’ award as well as bon appetit’s ‘wine and spirits professional’ at their annual american food and entertaining awards. and just THIS month he and batali won the ’2008 outstanding restaurateur award’ for babbo. another huge recognition of undeniable greatness.
photo from the ulterior epicure 2007
but the best news of all is that he’s a really fine man, who speaks softly and seriously with a sense of true humbleness. his love of wine is undeniable. and so when he spoke of his vineyards, describing both the history and terroir of the region with an undeniable depth of knowledge and passion, i was mesmerized.
photo from the ulterior epicure 2007
"bastianich wine dinner"
june 4. 2008
bastianich rosato 2007
house cured ham
farro, radish, english peas, local greens, almond, lemon, pecorino
georgia shrimp, lemon, chilies, mint, marjoram
bastianich tocai friuliano 2006
bastianich tocai plus 2005
prosciutto cotto, mozzarella, oregano, chilies, egg
bastianich vespa bianco 2006
rigatoni, tomato, meatballs, montasio
la mozza aragone 2005
oven roasted goat, salsa verde
la mozza i perazzi 2006
hopeville tomme, blood orange marmelade
cookie plate – selection of southern cookies
so keeping an impartial palate after now meeting joe – and already wanting to love his wine, well, it was going to be tough. but dear readers, i truly thought that what was presented that evening was outstanding and the next day i ordered a mixed case of his wine.
i sat next to joe for the first half of the dinner and we talked of food and food blogging, and songwriters and songwriting, and bourdain and batali… and then i had to release him to the other 30 or so diners so he could work the room.
joe handed me his card and told me i could call him if i ever needed anything. i looked at him and said, "well, what i was really hoping for was ‘babbo’ on my birthday". and now - it is done. the first and last time i ate there was 1999 and it was one of the better dinners i can recall. bur it’s a tough reservation. and believe me, i have put in the phone time – trying to get in. the week before i had even emailed the general manager, to no avail. (by the way, babbo does have a show-up and wait to be seated policy, and i think you can eat at the bar… but it’s not a guarantee.)
and now i’m in los angeles, adhering to this painfully plain raw diet for a 3 week spell. i wasn’t going to do any real dining out, but i am weak in the face of a batali/bastianich driven restaurant. and so now i’ll be checking out ‘osteria mozza’ on melrose, my last night here.
i can’t wait.
thank you, joe…