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2017: Food, Family, and Italian Culture

For the Love of Food: Lidia Bastianich visits SCU

By Maria Judnick

Jeff Bracco, Lidia Bastianich, Fr. Dorian Llywelyn. Photo by Charles Barry. More Photos.

SCU’s fifth Vari Symposium focused on food, family, and Italian culture, all themes important to Lidia Bastianich, Emmy-award winning public television host, best-selling cookbook author, and restaurateur. Lidia visited classes held in both English and Italian on Monday, March 6 th then settled in for a heartfelt conversation like those “around grandma’s kitchen table” on Tuesday, March 7 th with Fr. Dorian Llywelyn, Executive Director of the Ignatian Center, and Jeffrey Bracco, Lecturer in the Theatre and Dance Department.

As an immigrant from Istria (a former region of Italy), Lidia believes food brings people together and connects them to their cultures. When Istria became a part of then-communist Yugoslavia, Lidia’s haven was cooking with her grandma and she still cooks to remember her. “Food and family,” Lidia said, “Having time at the table, that’s what essential.”

While Lidia is known for her traditional Italian cuisine, she is deeply grateful to be an American. “Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday,” she explained. “We have a ‘really American’ one with a turkey.” After revealing she brushes her turkey with balsamic vinegar, Lidia slyly added, “we also have a little pasta, of course!”

For Lidia, it’s only natural to bring different traditions together while cooking. “I’ve been gifted with two cultures,” she said. “I’m a conduit – I bring my native culture to my adopted one.” Thanks to this belief, her show Lidia Celebrates America specials reflect a deep love of the United States. Lidia also appreciates all the opportunities living in America has provided her, including the chance to cook for both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis during their visits, an honor for which she’s “still pinching [her]self.”

Of course, Lidia happily shared cooking tips during the evening’s Q&A, encouraging millennials in attendance to realize that “food is the antidote to isolating technology.” She offered a recipe for bagna cauda for an audience member who fondly remembered making the dish for her grandfather but forgot the ingredients. She counseled another audience member how to break into the food industry and become a “little Lidia.” Finally, she suggested “eating local and drinking local” as we eagerly await the opening of a San Francisco Eataly (her popular Italian food and wine marketplaces).

Service is also a large part of Lidia’s daily work thanks to her family’s strong relationship with the Jesuits. She honors our nation’s veterans through her program and helps fundraise on behalf of Public Television. She often volunteers her time freely for many different organizations - in fact, she donated her honorarium to support Santa Clara’s mission through the Center for the Arts and Humanities and the Vari Italian Studies Initiative. “I feel so blessed. To be able to transform what the earth gives us and to create food that can nurture people, I feel so very important.” Lidia explained. “This gift made me who I am and that gift is not my own, so I need to share it.” And, now, the SCU community will always appreciate Lidia Bastianich’s generosity in sharing her gifts with us.


Tuesay, March 7, 2017 ~ 7:30 p.m. ~ Music Recital Hall


Lidia Bastianich, Chef, TV Personality, Author, Restaurateur

Lidia Bastianich is an Emmy award-winning public television host, a best selling cookbook author, restaurateur, and owner of a flourishing food and entertainment business. Lidia has married her two passions in life—her family and food, to create multiple culinary endeavors alongside her two children, Joseph and Tanya.

Lidia’s cookbooks, co-authored with her daughter Tanya, include Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine, Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking, Lidia’s Favorite Recipes, Lidia’s Italy in America, Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy, and Lidia’s Italy—all companion books to the Emmy winning and three time nominated television series: Lidia’s Kitchen, Lidia’s Italy in America, and Lidia’s Italy. Lidia’s series air internationally with territories including Mexico, Canada, Middle East, Croatia, the UK, and Spanish speaking South American countries. Lidia has also published Lidia’s Family Table, Lidia’s Italian American Kitchen, Lidia’s Italian Table, and La Cucina di Lidia.

Lidia is the chef/owner of four acclaimed New York City restaurants: Felidia, Becco, Esca, and Del Posto, as well as Lidia’s Pittsburgh and Lidia’s Kansas City along with her daughter Tanya. She is also founder and president of Tavola Productions, an entertainment company that produces high quality broadcast productions. In 2014, three Tavola productions – Lidia’s Kitchen, Lidia Celebrates America, and Amy Thielen’s Heartland Table on the Food Network – were nominated for a James Beard Award. Lidia Celebrates America: Home for The Holidays won the James Beard Award in 2016 for “Best Special.” Together with her daughter Tanya and son-in-law Corrado, Lidia also has developed line of pastas and all natural sauces, LIDIA’S.

With her son, Joe Bastianich, chef Mario Batali, and Oscar Farinetti, the team opened Eataly, the largest artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace, in New York City, Chicago, Boston, and Sao Paolo, Brazil. A second New York location opened in 2016, Los Angeles will open in 2017, and Toronto in 2018.

Lidia’s first children’s book, Nonna Tell Me a Story: Lidia’s Christmas Kitchen, was inspired by her five grandchildren and was accompanied by an animated one hour special for Public Television. The second installation in the series, Lidia’s Family Kitchen: Nonna’s Birthday Surprise, was released in the Spring of 2013, and her third was released in January 2015.

Lidia is a founding member of Les Dames D’Escoffier and Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, two non-profit organizations of women leaders in the food and hospitality industries. She is also on the board of the Arrupe College, a higher education program for underprivileged students founded by the Loyola University of Chicago. Lidia gives freely of her time and knowledge, and is an active member of society who participates in community service activities and special events on behalf of several foundations and Public Television.

Fr. Dorian Llywelyn, S.J., Executive Director, Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education

Fr. Llywelyn promotes and enhances the distinctively Jesuit tradition of education at Santa Clara, and leads the University’s efforts in promoting and strengthening the understanding, engagement, and shared appreciation of the Jesuit, Catholic character of the University.

Prior to coming to Santa Clara, Fr. Llywelyn worked at Heythrop College at the University of London and Loyola Marymount University. He most recently served as president of the International Society of Jesuit Ecumenists and is the superior of the Jesuit Community in Brixton, London.

Fr. Llywelyn has written several books and scholarly articles on the intersection of faith and culture. His research interests focus on the place of land and national identity in the spirituality of peoples, and the intersection of devotion to the Virgin Mary with politics and culture.

Fluent in several languages including Spanish, French, Indonesian, and colloquial Arabic, he served several years in the Voluntary Service Overseas (British Peace Corps) in Indonesia and Egypt.

Fr. Llywelyn received a Ph.D. in Theology from the University of Wales; a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Jesuit School of Theology; a Bachelor of Sacred Theology from the Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca in Spain; and a B.A. in English from the University of Cambridge.

Jeffrey Bracco, Lecturer, Department of Theatre and Dance

Professor Bracco is an alumnus of the Santa Clara University Theatre and Dance Department, and has worked as a director, actor, teacher, and playwright in both the United States and Europe.

Besides directing two world premieres in Paris, Bonheur au bar du coin and Code 40 by playwright Patrice Scanu, he directed his own play, ShakesPod, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Bay Area directing credits include Oliver! and A Chorus Line at Broadway by the Bay, Monty Python’s Spamalot, and NINE, at City Lights Theatre Company. For his direction of NINE, Prof. Bracco was nominated for Best Director (Bay Area Theatre Critics).

As an actor, film and TV roles include From Paris With Love and the French series Hard. Prof. Bracco has written several produced plays including Twainheart, ShakesPod, and POE-Pourri. His play The Futurists! won 21 Annual New Works Festival at the Long Beach Playhouse. He has also collaborated with David Popalisky on Futurismo, an avant-garde dance-theatre creation.

Prof. Bracco earned his M.F.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and also trained at the Jacques Lecoq International School of Theatre in Paris, France. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and was Valedictorian of his class at Santa Clara University.

Ms. Bastianach has graciously donated her honorarium to support the mission of Santa Clara University through the Center for the Arts and Humanities and the Vari Italian Studies Initiative.