The Bastianich family's food empire extends far beyond Lidia Bastianich's television show and her five cookbooks, although those are large accomplishments in their own right. "Lidia's Italian American Kitchen," her cooking show on PBS is a huge hit, drawing in epicureans since 2001 with its simple, flavorful Italian recipes.
Bastianich's children also share her passion for food, and have expanded the family business. Her son, Joseph, is a restaurant owner, author and wine expert who will serve as a sommelier during the pope's dinner, using wines from the family's label.
Bastianich's daughter, Tanya, is an art historian who has also launched a travel company and a line of specialty products. Both Tanya and her grandmother, Bastianich's mother, Erminia Motika, have also appeared on several episodes of "Lidia's Italian American Kitchen" and Tanya co-wrote "Lidia's Italy," Bastianich's latest book.
"As Italians, family is the epicenter," Bastianich said. "I think it's just part of the culture. My mother, who's 87, who comes on the show, she lives with me still. My daughter lives in walking distance; she has two children. My son, Joe, has three children. So five grandchildren. So to find ourselves on a weekend, four generations, and find ourselves in the kitchen because that's the natural place to be; it's not uncommon. And I just love it."
They're the perfect example of the American dream, illustrating just how far the family has come both literally and figuratively.
"When we left Italy to come to America, we left from Ciampino Airport in Rome, and I remember specifically we went to Saint Peter's Basilica to ask for a blessing on this, in this new venture, in this new world," Bastianich recalled. "And I remember, you know, looking around because it's just an amazing place, it was my first visit but also my mother really saying, 'Ok, ask for a blessing. We're going to need it, we're going far away.'"
"And then to be able to have this great blessing in my life in America, this great opportunity and really sort of verifying myself in a sense, becoming myself, and turn around and be able to now host and feed and cook for his holiness is just a complete circle that may be only in a dream -– maybe it is a dream."