Lidia Bastianich Tells You How To Order At An Italian Restaurant - Exclusive

There is one thing that Lidia Bastianich orders, without fail, when she steps off a plane in Italy. It's not polenta or pasta or pizza or gelato, but instead, a cappuccino. As much as you obsess over Starbucks, Dunkin', or that local coffee shop brew around the corner, Bastianich is faithful to "that real taste [of] Italian coffee." She told Mashed in an exclusive interview, "I yearn for that." For Bastianich, "there's an intensity in the coffee" that is unique to Italian soil. Also, there's the froth. "It's more dense," Bastianich said. "And then the bubbles are very, very tiny. It's almost like a velvety cream, rather than the frothiness. So, when I'm drinking, the froth doesn't end up on my nose."

When Lidia Bastianich gives you Italian culinary advice, take it and run. The culinary master, in some ways, inherited the mantle from Julia Child, who — as Bastianich recounted to Mashed — gave Bastianich the thumbs up when producers offered Bastianich her a show. "Oh, Lidia you do for the Italian cuisine what I did for the French. Go ahead, you're going to be just great," Bastianich recalled Child telling her. More than two decades, and a restaurant, cookbook, and television empire later, and Bastianich's hold over Italian cooking knowledge in the United States has crossed the line from legendary to almost mythological; it's hard not to think of her as the origin.

Bastianich is not just unwavering adherent to Italian cappuccinos. She's also a devotee to "the rules of the Italian cuisine," rules you should stick to when ordering from an Italian restaurant, be it in Italy or the United States.

How to select a dish at an Italian restaurant

There is not one dish that you should always — or, for that matter, never — order at an Italian restaurant. Rather, Bastianich told Mashed, "stick to the dishes ... that you recognize somehow that are Italian." For true Italian food, stay away from fusion. "I think a lot of chefs do a lot of combinations, and textures, and add a lot of stuff," Bastianich cautioned. "Italian cuisine is not a lot. Italian cuisine is simple and straightforward."

Bastianich learned the rules of Italian cooking from growing up with her grandmother in Istria, a part of Croatia that used to be Italy before World War II came to an end (via Eataly). "There were rules, I guess, dictated by nature — timing, maybe climate, or whatever — that she followed and she respected," Bastianich remembered. "That was the seasonality. And we knew exactly what was coming and we were getting ready for what was coming." When Bastianich orders food at an Italian restaurant, she is true to these principles. "I think, what is the season?" Bastianich explained. "Are the wild asparagus coming in? I'm looking for the thing that will bring me back to my childhood memories." When you walk into an Italian restaurant, that's what you should do, too. Bastianich said to ask, "What's on the menu?" Stay away from fruits and vegetables that aren't in season, locally. "Do they have these, let's see, tomatoes in January? Try to stay away from that, it's logical." Bastianich concluded. "Follow the rules of the Italian cuisine, even when you're at the restaurant."

To stick to the rules of Italian cuisine when cooking at home, check out Lidia Bastianich's new cookbook, "Lidia's a Pot, a Pan, and a Bowl." For more daily inspiration from Bastianich, follow her on Instagram.