joe bastianich

June 19th, 2008 · 38 Comments


a few weeks ago i received an email:

Dear Claudia,

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…

Tags: other · restaurants · wine

38 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Diana // Jun 19, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    Calling from the inner recesses of Georgia to say… Holy hell! Have a wonderful time — you’ve earned it.

  • 2 Lesley // Jun 19, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    They had me a “mozzarella bar.”

    But seriously, I know you have a tough choice, but the mezzalune was divine. Wonderful texture and a sublime blend of sweet and savory. Enjoy!

  • 3 Rosemary // Jun 20, 2008 at 1:52 am

    What a great culinary adventure.

  • 4 L Wilson // Jun 20, 2008 at 9:02 am

    So that’s what you’ve been up to! Haven’t seen you in a while. Enjoy your trip. When’s your birthday?

  • 5 michelle @ TNS // Jun 20, 2008 at 9:21 am


    i mean, how wonderful for you!

    how come shit like this never happens to me?

  • 6 NOBLE PIG // Jun 20, 2008 at 9:29 am

    This sound like a great night Claudia! How fun for you.

  • 7 The Urban Eater // Jun 20, 2008 at 10:23 am

    I’m envious Claudia. I am truly envious.

  • 8 Becky And The Beanstock // Jun 20, 2008 at 11:35 am

    It’s rough enough that we can’t be there, but now I suppose we’ll all have to hear all about it too??? I’m counting on it, anyway — can’t wait for the painful wonderful details. It seems rather pointless to say “Enjoy”, but, well…

  • 9 cookiecrumb // Jun 20, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    Very frackin’ cool!
    I thought *I* was your +1!!

  • 10 Vincent // Jun 20, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    You made it feel like we were all there with you – great post!!

  • 11 Lauren // Jun 20, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    wow. babbo, i will do it the honor of not using the y word, though it fits. i’m definitely jealous, but have a blast.

  • 12 Arturo // Jun 20, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    My sister sent me the link to this post. I am a very big fan of this man. Thank you for sharing the evening with us. Joe has always been on a pedestal to me. I have worked for him in the past and he really is a good person.

  • 13 Sylvia M. // Jun 20, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    I LOVE JOE BASTIANICH !!! I have eaten in most of his restaurants and I agree that Babbo is a hard restaurant to get into. But i also am a fan of Lidia’s books and her show on TV. LONG LIVE GREAT ITALIAN FOOD AND WINE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • 14 melissa // Jun 20, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    rigatoni, tomato, meatballs, montasio

    Ya know, had it been a year ago, I would have shrugged at this. But this year, thanks to Lidia, I am starting to understand what truly good Italian food is, what good pasta/sauce is, and that dish sounds like it was wonderful.

    Lidia is a fabulous lady and I’m not surprised her son is such a dear soul as well. I’m thrilled for you that you got to have that experience.

    All the best and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on Osteria Mozza.

  • 15 robin // Jun 21, 2008 at 8:45 am

    Wow! What an exciting thing!! Have fun, Claudia!

  • 16 We Are Never Full // Jun 21, 2008 at 11:19 am

    YOU BIZNATCH!!!! you are so right about getting into babbo nowadays. it actually angers me that people that live in new york can’t even get in anymore. it is so annoying. i called for reservations 30 days in advance at 9AM when the desk opened, then finally got through at 10AM andthe only sitting left was at 10.45. i live 2 miles from the friggin’ place. anyways, i’m so happy for you. joe b. always seemed like a guy i’d love to go out to eat with a drink copious amounts with him and smoke cigars.

    that meal is gonna taste great after a 3 week raw diet cleanse!! god, are you dying at this point?

  • 17 The Italian Dish // Jun 21, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Wow, I am totally impressed. Lucky you. Thank you for posting the menu for us. Interesting. Enjoy your dinner at Babbo, whenever that will be!

  • 18 Julie // Jun 21, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Wow! First Osteria Mozza, then Babbo? You’re a lucky, lucky woman.

  • 19 Lorelia Jones // Jun 21, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    Please kiss Mario for me, OK? Or you can kiss Joe if you want. He’s pretty cute. I’m a B&B admirer!

  • 20 jim voorhies // Jun 21, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    i am totally with michelle on this one. :)

    but given what you’ve had to “eat” for the last three weeks, i guess you deserve it.

    maybe. ;)

  • 21 Zenchef // Jun 22, 2008 at 1:31 am

    This is freakin’ fantastic!..Wow.. Lucky you!
    The +1 wasn’t for me then!?? hmmm :-)
    I work 2 blocks away from Felidia by the way. I’m in your old ‘hood! hehe. I agree about Babbo.. it’s just impossible to get in these days. I need to try again.

  • 22 Laura @ Hungry and Frozen // Jun 22, 2008 at 5:18 am

    WOW lucky you, nice one…couldn’t have happened at a better time I guess, considering your current diet :) enjoy! What a totally fab thing to happen.

  • 23 democommie // Jun 22, 2008 at 6:38 am


    I cannot be jealous, honestly, of anyone who works so hard for the “luck” they have. I will probably never eat in any of those wonderful places you’ve written about in the last few months and, frankly, it’s okay. I love good food but, to me, whatever the food, it’s the conversations and the company that make any meal memorable.

    I would appreciate it it you could just do me one, tinsy, bitsy little favor. Can you have Mario send me a kilo of breadcrumbs? Ask him to wrap them around some veal so that they will travel better.

  • 24 lucy // Jun 23, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    when I grow up, I want to be cool like you.


  • 25 evil chef mom // Jun 23, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    How frickin’ cool is that? That’s one way of maintaining a level of…

  • 26 White On Rice Couple // Jun 23, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    This is so exciting and we’re really ecstatic for you! Yeah!
    Also, hope you’ll be writing about Osteria Mozza. Curious to see what you thought of it!

  • 27 Donald // Jun 23, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    That’s too cool! I had a coworker just came back from NYC last week. He said he and his wife showed up at Babbo at 4:15 to stand in line and they get seated at the bar. He told me the reservation wait is months long. He also said it was great!

    Congrats to you!

  • 28 fluffernutter // Jun 23, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Think how much more you’re going to enjoy this meals now than if you ate it at the end of a long eatin’-and-travelin’ trip.

  • 29 maybelles mom (feeding maybelle) // Jun 23, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    who knew you were a rock star…how fun.

  • 30 lifeinrecipes // Jun 24, 2008 at 6:25 am

    Oh great, now I gotta wipe drool out of my keyboard.

    Can’t wait to hear about Mozza. Sigh.

  • 31 Kim // Jun 24, 2008 at 9:54 am

    Claudia- How fabulous, and eating raw for some many weeks probably enhanced the food experience. Thanks for a good story.

  • 32 joycooks // Jun 24, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Claudia, what a memorable experience! All I can say is “why wasn’t I invited?” just kidding. but my bro is about to go do a stage as a butcher in one of his places, set up by joe through a mutual friend, so another example of how he truly must be a very nice guy. Can’t wait to hear about Mozza! xo

  • 33 Kate // Jun 24, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    What a fantastic invite & evening – almost worth the raw weeks…

  • 34 Hillary // Jun 24, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    Jeez – how cool! You must blog about it! Congrats on being invited. Do you get to meet Batali too? :)

  • 35 Heather // Jun 24, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    Well, color me jealous. Not an easy task, either. Well done!

    Kudos for your sticktoitiveness on the raw thing, too. Almost done!

  • 36 aforkfulofspaghetti // Jun 27, 2008 at 7:47 am

    Way to go!

    I wouldn’t have expected to see goat on the menu… but it all sounds delish!

  • 37 FlaNBoyant Eats // Jun 29, 2008 at 9:31 am

    nice job. i’m sure it was incredible to say the absolute least. i CAN’T wait to move to NYC!! geesh.

  • 38 Layla // Jul 2, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Wow, what an awesome experience!
    Also, I’ve tagged you for an optional meme, details are on my site.

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