Was Felice Bastianich Involved With Lidia's NYC Restaurant, Felidia?

If you're very clever, you may have noticed that Felidia, Lidia Bastianich's flagship restaurant — which quietly closed in 2021 – is a portmanteau of "Felice" and "Lidia," with "Felice" referring to the chef's ex-husband. This may lead you to wonder whether the name signifies involvement from both spouses, or if it was just a cute dedication from wife to then-husband.

There are plenty of celebrity chefs who cook in their own restaurant kitchens and plenty of spouses who work together in their restaurants. While Lidia is the face of the Bastianich brand, Felice took great pride in the family business, with disagreements over whether to expand or not allegedly leading to the couple's divorce in 1998. He was certainly involved in the purchasing of Felidia, as was also the case with the couple's first two restaurants: Buonavia and Villa Secondo. He also held shares in the family business right up until Lidia and he separated, after which he transferred the shares to their children.

Lidia herself acknowledges Felice's role in the restaurant's finances in "Felidia: Recipes From My Flagship Restaurant: A Cookbook." She describes the opening of the restaurant as a joint endeavor between the couple, writing about their evenings spent obsessing over "budgetary projections and cost estimates." It's harder to pin down whether he had a role once the restaurant opened its doors, however.

Felice Bastianich was a hands-on owner

Felice Bastianich's name is notably absent from the acknowledgments of "Felidia: Recipes From My Flagship Restaurant: A Cookbook," although this does not mean he had no involvement in the day-to-day running of the restaurant in those early days. In fact, there's a possibility that his absence is due to the fact that he died in 2010, nine years before the book was published.

When it came to the couple's first restaurant, Lidia Bastianich describes her ex-husband as enjoying working in the "front of house, greeting the customers and playing the showman, [...] preparing tableside dishes with a flourish." He was also involved in the purchasing side of the business, using the family car as transport for ingredients.

It's harder to pin down whether this hands-on approach transferred to Felidia, but Felice's keen interest in both the construction and financial viability of the endeavor, as expressed in the "Felidia" book, implies that he was someone who liked to be involved. It's fair to assume that, even if it was out of the public eye, Felice may have bustled around Felidia in some capacity.