Why Lidia Bastianich's Birthplace Is No Longer Considered Italy

While most food buffs would know Lidia Bastianich as an Italian chef and host of "Lidia's Italy" where she offers up authentic Italian recipes to her viewing faithful, if you were to look at a map, her birthplace might surprise you. According to a piece by ABC News, Bastianich was born in the Istria region of what is now Croatia. Her amazing life story rivals that of a novel more than a cookbook, perhaps.

At the time of her birth, Istria was actually part of Italy. The region had been given to Italy after the First World War and remained that way up until 1947, when it became a part of Yugoslavia. Due to new laws that required the region to begin speaking Serbo-Croatian instead of Bastianich's native Italian that she grew up with, her family hopped across the new Italian border and moved into a refugee camp. It wasn't until 1958 that her family was given political asylum from the United States and moved to New York.

Lidia's early life

In an interview with Kansas City's The Pitch, Lidia Bastianich describes her early exposure to the culinary world. While still living in Istria, Bastianich recalled the small farm on which her family had wine and olive groves, chickens, pigs and goats, the latter of which she would milk in the mornings for her breakfast. Though the region may not be associated with Italian cuisine any longer, when Bastianich was growing up, it was all fresh olive oil and ricotta.

While food may have been a central to her life living on the family farm, it became central to her life in a different way after escaping to Italy. Living on bunk beds for two years in a refugee camp, Bastianich was no longer helping her grandmother in the kitchen, but rather waiting in line for what the camp offered. It took a long life of drastically different settings and will to persevere that allowed one Italian or Croatia immigrant to star in a TV show, author numerous cookbooks, and found a plethora of eateries.