Italian chef Lidia Bastianich is one of the rare food celebrities who has a restaurant close enough for Wichitans to visit regularly. Her Lidia’s Kansas City at 101 W. 22nd St. in Kansas City, Mo., serves homey Italian dishes in an upscale setting.
Bastianich, 68, is also a television star and cookbook author, and she’s making a visit to Wichita. She’ll appear at Abode Venue at 1330 E. Douglas on Tuesday, where she’ll sign copies of her new cookbook, “Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Great Italian Cook,” and speak at an event moderated by Wichita’s Scott Redler, co-owner of Freddy’s Frozen Custard.
During a recent phone interview from New York City, where she lives and owns four restaurants, Bastianich talked about her new cookbook, her love for Kansas City, and her thoughts on Americanized Italian dishes.
Bastianich, whose cooking show, “Lidia’s Kitchen,” airs at 1 p.m. Tuesdays on KPTS, Channel 8, said she likes to get back to Kansas City frequently to speak with the staff, make menu revisions, and taste everything her restaurant is serving. While in town, she said, she tries to schedule an appearance or two nearby.
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When her Kansas City restaurant opened 17 years ago in the Crossroads, a former railroad freight house, it was kind of isolated, she said. Now, it has two high-end next-door neighbors – Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue and German restaurant Grunauer – plus a whole arts district that’s developed around it.
“I like coming back to Kansas City,” Bastianich said. “It’s a great city. I like the feel. I especially like the area where we are at now. It’s really evolved. When we first started there, it was all dead. It was kind of a nostalgic, romantic setting. Now it’s kind of a happening setting.”
Her new cookbook, which was released in October, is her 10th. Bastianich calls it her “magnum opus.” The hardbound book contains more than 400 Italian recipes, and that’s not all.
“This one is kind of a collection of a lot of how-tos and whys,” Bastianich said. “The first 100 pages is about my philosophy, history and relationship with food and about understanding Italian food and traditional Italian products.”
Bastianich offers, for example, a guide to Italian cheeses, a glossary of pasta varieties and information about the benefits of braising, broiling and brining.
She includes recipes for exotic-sounding Italian recipes like salt cod fritters and bread and prune gnocchi. She also includes recipes for some of the Americanized Italian dishes popular in the states, like manicotti, spaghetti and meatballs and eggplant Parmesan.
“I think the Italian-American cuisine is a great cuisine,” she said. “It’s wonderful. It’s tasty. It’s good. It’s not what you would eat in Italy, though. It’s the cuisine of Italian immigrants adapting themselves to this new world they found. But I love it. A Sunday sauce is delicious. Manicotti is delicious.”
Her presentation on Tuesday, Bastianich said, will appeal to anyone interested in food. It will start with Redler asking her a list of questions, which she said usually leads to her talking about immigrating to America as a young child, becoming interested in cooking and growing into roles as a businesswoman, a mother, a grandmother and a television chef.
She’ll then take questions from members of the audience, who usually want to know how to choose the right olive oil and which pastas go with which sauces, she said.
What: The celebrity chef and cookbook author will make an appearance in Wichita
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday. Doors open at 5:15 p.m.
Where: Abode Venue, 1330 E. Douglas
Tickets: $37.50, which includes a copy of the new cookbook and a free companion ticket, at Watermark Books, 1330 E. Douglas, or online at http://www.watermarkbooks.com/, where if you buy a copy of the cookbook, you’ll also be signed up for tickets
Also: A cash bar will be available
Win a copy of Lidia’s cookbook
Want your very own copy of celeb chef Lidia Bastianich's new cookbook, which she'll be discussing at an appearance in Wichita next week? I have a copy, and I'm giving it away.
All you have to do is make a comment on my post about the giveaway at Facebook.com/diningwithdenise . On Monday, I'll randomly choose a comment, and its author will win my copy of "Lidia's Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine," a $37.50 value.
Give the Dining with Denise Facebook page a like while you're there, if you're so inclined.