New York chef Lidia Bastianich has been staying in Santa Monica this week in order to prepare a dinner at Shutters that promotes its "Summer of Bastianich" wine program. Bastianich is no stranger to L.A.: She says she counts Wolfgang Puck and Pierro Selvaggio as close friends, and, of course, enjoys regular visits to Mozza. Her take on the town? "L.A. is developing very nicely in terms of restaurants," and she says she loved the tree-lined dining room at Soho House when her son Joe recently took her for dinner. More than anything, she says it’s the breadth of food here that speaks to her sensibilities: "I’m pleased by diversity and I think that’s what people should be paying attention to. When you embrace diversity and you appreciate what you’re eating in the moment, you get satisfied," she says. "I need my meals to reflect what I’m doing, reflect the moment." And for today’s L.A. Diet, Bastianich shared with us every moment spent eating over this past week in New York and L.A.
Wednesday, June 22
I was at my home in New York and started with coffee, cottage cheese, and blueberries. How I really, really love my coffee is with cream and sugar. But how I take it is another story. I take it with skim milk and no sugar.
That day I was with my granddaughter, Olivia, who is Joe’s daughter. I have five of them, and I want to give them all one-on-one time. And, you know, she’s a young teenage girl of 13 going off to camp, so we went shopping on Fifth Avenue. She did not have breakfast that morning and she was hungry, so we went to Saks Fifth Avenue where they have a café. I had a cup of corn chowder and crab soup, an iced tea, and a tuna-salad sandwich on whole wheat. I can’t just have one thing, you know, I like a little something before. The meal was decent. I liked my appetizer. It was kind of a dingy day, so a little soup was good.
We started with a Sicilian salad, my recipe, with string beans and potatoes and roasted peppers, which then get topped with a nice crisp salad. Then we had shiitake mushrooms battered and fried, and shrimp with garlic — and mind you, this was all spread out across the table. With this we had our Vespa Bianco wine. Then being a birreria, we had platters of different sausages. We had the cotechino, the bratwurst, the blood sausage, and all of that came with cabbage. Then we had also a braised shoulder of pork, glazed and roasted. I like my vegetables and we had the German potato kinda salad with mustard, then some simple cookies for dessert with coffee: biscotti and chocolatini. It was very nice, very familial, and I got to wish him well.
Thursday, June 23
I was filming for Lidia’s Italy in America, which airs in October, and I was going fishing with a fisherman and one of my chefs, David Pasternak, and his friend Artie, who loves his fish. We were going along the south shore on Long Island and five o’clock, I got up. I had a cup of coffee first and when we got out there, I had another cup with a bagel with cream cheese. The cream cheese was very nice. It had some chives, but also some kind of roasted pepper. That was good.
We got on the boat with the fisherman, Dave, and his friend, and they announced that we were going to go clamming, because the tide was down. As the tide goes down, there are kind of these aisles of clams that come out. And in these aisles, you dig and you get steamers, you get littleneck clams, and cherrystone clams. It was really wonderful and we caught all of this on film. Then on the way around, as we were going fishing, there was this friend of the fisherman and they were netting bluefish. It was wonderful. The tide was low and they were close to one of the islands. And they were in the water skimming the water with the net, so we got up there and these bluefish were jumping; it was beautiful.
Then it was full tide, and we got back on the boat and went fishing. And we got some flukes and the red robin fish that kind of flies in the air. We got quite a few flukes and it was really nice, as they were biting. And we were moving with the tide, going up and down, but then it was lunchtime. So David, his wife made him a big muffaletta sandwich. He cut it in quarters ‘cause there were a few of us, and we had muffaletta with a Diet Coke for lunch. Then we went to one of the docks where the ships come in to see the catch of the big ships. They were bringing in scallops, beautiful, beautiful sea scallops. They had calamari, skate, and monkfish. It was beautiful to just look and talk and we ended up all of us together for dinner, at Ali’s, the fisherman that came with us. He has a sea supply store and tied to it, he has a restaurant. It was an early dinner, but we were all hungry. We had fried calamari as an appetizer and then I had a whole, grilled, just-caught flounder, with some bread crumbs on top of it, with steamed asparagus. It was a great day. Then I got home and I was tired and all of that, but I did have some grapefruit juice and a cup of cherries before I went to bed.
Friday, June 24
In the morning, I had coffee, cottage cheese, and blueberries. My niece, my brother’s daughter, is getting married next Sunday, so I went to the Garment District for a fitting of my dress. I grabbed a tossed green salad with grilled chicken and avocado somewhere very fast, that was my lunch. In the afternoon, I went down to Del Posto, because it had just been accepted into Relais & Châteaux. We tasted all the new amuse gueule that they give to the table. What I really like is the salted cod fritter with a hot jelly sauce. I had it all with a grapefruit Bellini.
And then for dinner, I went up to Becco, ‘cause I run from restaurant to restaurant, and there I met three sailing mates. I love sailing, so every summer I go sailing in the Adriatic, which is very nice. We had some cured olives, then antipasti of baked clams, grilled shrimp, stuffed mushrooms, some tossed salads, and then for the main course, we had grilled striped bass with steamed asparagus and mashed potatoes. And we also had a sliced steak in the center and just all took what we wanted. And we drank one or two bottles of Vespa.
Saturday, June 25
My mother, she’s 91 and lives with me. We have a little garden where we grow tomatoes and everything. So I started out the day with cottage cheese and blueberries again. I’m trying to stay away a little bit from wheat, as I have a little bit of knee inflammation and all of that. So the cottage cheese is good like that.
So we spent the day in the garden and my granddaughter, Julia, came over. She lives just two blocks away. We tied up all the tomato plants with a stick and while they worked in the garden, I made a dish with the little red robinfish that we caught fishing, and I made some rice and a nice radicchio salad from the garden. The radicchio, we bring the seeds from Italy. The three of us ate outside with a little bit of Bastianich Friulano and then at the end, we each had a piece of hazelnut chocolate from Piedmont.
I went down to Felidia and did some work and checked out the reservations there, then I went and did some shopping for grandma. For dinner, we had some mashed potatoes and some meatballs I’d made before that she heated up in a mostarda dish. I always have a little something, so I had a little Friulano with that.
Sunday, June 26
I had coffee, yogurt, and a banana. That night I was flying to L.A. But for lunch, two of my grandchildren came over, so I got in the garden and made a fresh pesto from basil, fresh garlic, and parsley. I did a little of Lidia’s spaghetti and added this pesto with some grana. And we ate outside, and my mom and I had a little Friuliano and then an espresso.
I left at seven that night to get my flight, but what I do before leaving for my mother is I make things she can prepare easily at home. So I made some meatballs, and then my nephew and his partner came to see grandma and the meatballs were just about done. So he made himself a big bowl of rigatoni and I just had some meatballs with a garden salad and some red wine, Morellino di Mozza, and that was it. And then I got on a plane and flew into Santa Monica. I left at nine and you know, airplane food? I try not to.
Monday, June 27
On Monday, I got up at Shutters in Santa Monica, and I got up early ‘cause I’m on New York time. And I was kind of hungry, so I had coffee, eggs, and bacon downstairs at Coast. This was the one day I had for myself, so I went to the pool and I had a Bloody Mary and a chicken Cobb salad and some chips with guacamole. I was hungry and it was all good.
Then I went for a nice walk up and down the oceanfront boardwalk there in Santa Monica. It’s a very active shoreline, with windsurfers, gymnasts, people, and bicycles. It was very nice, but after swimming and walking, I was a little tired, so I had dinner in my room. Because I just felt, after all of that, kind of decadent and just wanted to have them serve me and relax. And I watched Joe’s Masterchef; it was on that night for two hours. In the room, I ordered a cioppino and a cheeseburger, but I didn’t eat the bun. And we were doing the wine dinner there the next night, so they sent me up a bottle of Bastianich Sauvignon and I had some fruit after that. I was happy. Having an extra day in L.A. was wonderful. I was very happy to be here.