PORTLAND, Maine — Long before Lidia Bastianich had opened restaurants and the Eataly food emporiums in New York and Boston and other cities or hosted her own cooking series on public television or prepared meals for Popes and presidents, she was a teenager who’d emigrated with her family from Italy to the United States. What she found in New York City was a way of cooking very different from what she’d left behind.

“We were excited the first time we spotted Spam on the shelves,” she writes in her memoir, “My American Dream.” “Spam, American cheese, and Wonder Bread were our favorites.”

That, as you can imagine, was not the food that would make Bastianich rich and famous. To find out how she launched her career in the restaurant business through authentic Italian cooking, watch the second part of our conversation with her.


We interviewed Lidia Bastianich at the Music Hall in Portsmouth, where she appeared in the Writers on a New England Stage series.