It’s official – I’m one of the luckiest people on the planet! The past few weeks my work for Made in America has taken me far and wide across America meeting with chefs in their kitchens and learning all about them and their cooking. I was returning from my travels this Saturday and imagine my delight when I received a text from my friend Joe inviting me to the dinner at Mozza for his mother, Lidia Bastianich. I would be able to make it! I mean it’s Lidia!!!
Lidia gave me the most intelligent and interesting interview recently – she also contributed not one, but three recipes for Lasagna to Made in America. More about that another time but let’s just say her star shines brightly in my galaxy of star chefs cooking in America today.
The dinner at Mozza (on Saturday March 5th 2011) was a celebration of family. Mother and son sharing the spotlight discussing wine, food, travels, Italy, the Pope and so much more. If you’ve ever watched Lidia on her PBS show you will know how delightful she is – and most importantly what a great teacher she is. David Rosoff, the GM at Osteria Mozza, during his introduction referred to a time he was lucky enough to travel around Northern Italy with Lidia and Joe and just how encyclopedic their knowledge is. Joe joked about of all the times he and his sister had begged not to be dragged to yet another Italian restaurant as children on fact finding research trips.
The menu, cooked by Chef Matt Molina, was carefully planned using the recipes from Lidia’s latest book Lidia Cooks From The Heart Of Italy: A Feast of 175 Regional Recipes. This book is a must for all of you – the recipe for the risotto we ate is worth the price alone. That and the Almond Pudding – like an English blancmange or an Italian panna cotta from the middle ages – HEAVEN!
“When he chose the recipes,” said Lidia to Matt, “I had almost figured out and tasted what was going to happen. They were all very delicious, a great interpretation so thank you.
It certainly was a feast of five courses, each one more delicious than the last and all carefully paired with Bastianich vino.
As the guests arrived we sipped on Flor Bastianich Prosecco [you know the one I drank all Christmas because I like the bottle! ; ) My friend Anneli told me I couldn’t say this last time in a post so I’m saying it again!]
As we took our seats I was honored to be sat next to Lidia at her table. We talked about many things – her dislikes – cilantro and also Indian food – and her historical research for the book she is currently writing, her thoughts on Las Vegas and how much she had loved her time in LA.
When Lidia got up to talk to the room she had everyone enthralled as she told us tales of her times traveling around Italy for the book, the time she cooked for Pope Benedict in New York for his birthday – “I was the cook and he [Joe] was the waiter!” and then she went into great detail about each course and the background to the recipe.
From the North East of Italy we have a recipe for Celery Root and Apple Salad paired with 2009 Friulano “Adriatico” Bastianich – Colli Orientali del Friuli.
Next on our journey through Italy we headed East to the landlocked region of Lombardia and it’s capital Milan. From here came my favorite dish of the night the Risotto Milan-Style with Marrow and Saffon, paired with my go to favorite of Joe’s wines the 2008 “Vespa Bianco” Bastianich – Friuli. Lidia told us how this area of Italy is the biggest producer of rice in Europe and in particular the short-grain rice, so important in a good risotto. She also told us a nice story about an artist who once dropped saffron that he was painting with into his rice and the rest is history.
The rest of the menu was a meaty pasta dish from Umbria – Strangozzi with Veal and Chicken Liver Sauce paired with 2007 “Aragone” La Mozza – Toscana. I’m sorry to say that I was remiss in my photography at this point – I blame the Vespa! And also Jeff Porter – the Wine Director and Sommelier from Osteria Mozza – seen below with David Rosoff. [Jeff is leaving LA for NY – he’s going to be the wine director at Del Posto – good luck and safe travels – I’ll be there to share another Minetta Tavern burger with you before you can miss me!]
Next came a hearty rabbit dish, made with the legs rather than the more usual tenderloin of the animal paired with 2007 “Calabrone” Bastianich Venezia Giulia. I’m still surprised how squeamish American’s are when it comes to eating fluffy bunnies – as Lidia points out in her book “It is tasty, healthy and low in fat.” Lastly we enjoyed the Fromaggi Stagionati or Ubriacone, Scoparolo and Robiola with 2005 Friulano “Tocai Plus” Bastianich Colli Orientali del Friuli. And the photo below is my glass of Vespa – not v good with red vino these days, seems to give me a headache however good, so decided to stick with my fav.
Matt Molina was introduced to the diners and he and Lidia shed more light on their colaboration in making the food so special. He then disappeared for a short time and reappeared as promised with Nancy Silverton.
Nancy thanked Lidia and welcomed her to the Osteria – “It’s the first time you are here, in the Osteria. It’s christened, finally!” she said.
“We’ve got to make it more often,” replied Lidia, “Thank you for making me feel at home and good.”
Let’s hope for our sake she means it – come back and visit us again soon please Lidia.