MY AMERICAN DREAM
A Life of Love, Family, and Food
By Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
Read by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
Audiobook Download | $22.50
Published PRHA Imprint: Random House Audio
Apr 03, 2018 | 772 Minutes | ISBN 9780525588757
I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
From the best-selling cookbook author, beloved and award-winning television personality, and hugely successful restaurateur–a heartwarming, emotional, revelatory memoir told with all her hallmark warmth and gusto.
Lidia’s story begins with her upbringing in Pula, a formerly Italian city turned Yugoslavian under Tito’s communist regime. She enjoys a childhood surrounded by love and security–despite the family’s poverty–learning everything about Italian cooking from her beloved grandmother, Nonna Rosa. When the communist regime begins investigating the family, they flee to Trieste, Italy, where they spend two years in a refugee camp waiting for visas to enter the United States–an experience that will shape Lidia for the rest of her life. At age 12, Lidia starts a new life in New York. She soon begins working in restaurants as a young teenager, the first step toward the creation of her own American dream. And she tells in great, vivid detail the fulfillment of that dream: her close-knit family, her dedication and endless passion for food that ultimately leads to multiple restaurants, many cookbooks, and twenty years on public television as the host of her own cooking show. An absolute must-have for the millions of Lidia fans.
Whenever we go to NYC we have to eat at Felidia, Lidia Matticchio Bastianich’s amazing Italian restaurant, because the restaurant offers gluten-free, house-made, fresh pastas and the food, service and ambiance makes it my favorite restaurant in the world. I actually dream about their gluten-free pappardelle, a wide pasta noodle, with a sort of duck ragout sauce. I also love their GF pear and pecorino ravioli and their vitello tonnato (veal with tuna sauce) is a much lighter version of the traditionally calorie dense dish. We love the server who usually waits on us, and Pepe, the sweetest member of the staff who sang to me on my birthday.
My husband and I have also enjoyed some of her TV specials featuring the ways the American dinner table can honor food of so many traditions and where we learned of Ms. Bastianich’s family history and cultural heritage.
So, as you may imagine, as soon as I saw this book pop up in the PRHA offerings I jumped on it. Bastaianch write her memoir in a primarily linear time line with a few digressions, and telling it in her voice, still accented with her native Italian, offers a familiar and grounded feeling to the story. It offers an emotional component to the telling that had me either on the edge of my seat, or nearly in tears several times. Her phrasing is not quite American as she pauses in unusual places, but I did not mind as I normally would have, as I attribute it to the natural difference between the rhythms of her various languages. Seriously, I love this woman.
Lidia Bastianich was born in Istria, which was an Italian territory south of Trieste until it was made part of Yugoslavia after WWII. When Tito took power it became part of the Eastern block and the ethnically Italian families living there faced additional scrutiny because of their Italian heritage and family connections. Many fled before the borders closed, but Bastianich’s family, for a variety of reasons stayed on.
No one whose family emigrated in a diaspora, or while fleeing poverty, war, or political upheaval cannot help but listen with welling emotions as Bastianich recounts the love of family and place as well as the difficulties her family faced escaping Tito’s communist Yugoslavia, having to live in a refugee camp and finally receiving visas to come to the USA in the late 1950s. They came with only a few distant relatives they did not know living here, few possessions and even less money.
Bastianich details many of the difficulties her parents, educated and successful in Istria, faced arriving here without jobs, feeling distraught and uncertain. Her father had been arrested and jailed for thirty days on the suspicion of being a capitalist, had some of his equipment confiscated, and some ethnic Italian relatives “disappeared.”
Once in the USA, Bastianich’s father did not adapt as well as her mother did. She also details triumphs, joys, and her spiritual journey. Lidia and her brother had a great sense of family, and the importance of family. I often take these rosy memories of childhood in memoirs with skepticism — no one could ever be that good or unselfish, right? — and I understand the wish to portray one’s family in the best possible light, but the unstintingly positive and hard-working nature of the author testifies to in the success I know she has had. Thus, while the skepticism still lurks, perhaps it is that ability to see, recall and present memories positively, and with introspection, that make her so successful.
I imagine the strong roots she had in Istria, Italy and her family also played a huge part in her success. She doesn’t dwell on failure and is thrilled with her success. I do not believe she takes anything in her life or her work for granted.
This is a moving ode to the story of one family’s journey to and appreciation of this country and a great read/listen for yourself but also perfect for spring gifting. I plan to buy a copy for my mother.
I left the price in the description, above, because it is a very reasonable price point for an audiobook.
AUTHOR on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lidiabastianich
AUTHOR Website: http://lidiasitaly.com/
Pre-Order on Audible: https://www.audible.com/pd/Bios-Memoirs/My-American-Dream-Audiobook/B078KPY4BJ