What Lidia Bastianich Has Missed The Most During The Pandemic

For author and cooking show host Lidia Bastianich, her recurring series on PBS, "Lidia Celebrates America," has been an opportunity for the chef to really be in her element: Meeting and gathering with people from all walks of life, and bonding over a meal. Of particular interest to Bastianich, according to PBS, is exploring culinary traditions that, while different for each group, bring friends and family together to celebrate and to honor their culture. 

Throughout the newest episode of the series, "Overcoming The Odds," Bastianich is as joyful as always, but marks a somber tone briefly at the beginning of the special as she speaks to the challenges of the last two years. "As the pandemic continues to take a toll across the nation, I mourn the loss of life," she says. Bastianich herself recently lost her mother Erminia "Grandma" Motika, a figure well-known to viewers of Bastianich's cooking shows (via Twitter). 

Bastianich shares another loss that has affected her through the pandemic, one that people around the world can certainly relate to: "The ability to share my food and my table with others." 

Bastianich's joy brings people together

People around the world have struggled with not being able to see friends and family, especially for traditional holiday meals. For Lidia Bastianich, celebrating with others and assuming the role of jubilant hostess is clearly what she truly loves. According to Foodable, when she opened her first restaurant Buonavia in 1971, Bastianich wasn't the cook but the hostess — greeting guests and making everyone feel at home. Her signature catchphrase speaks to this as well: "Tutti a tavola a magiare!" translates to "everyone to the table to eat!" (via Lidia's Italy). Her love of bringing people together for a good meal and a good time seem as innate as her talent for cooking and teaching. 

Throughout her new special, Bastianich is clearly happy to be meeting new friends, sharing their stories of overcoming incredible hardship, and learning about their connections and traditions with food. And at the end of "Overcoming The Odds" Bastianich finally gets the chance to once again share her food and table. Bastianich prepares several dishes, tying each one back to the people she has met and gathering several of them with her. As she raises a glass to her guests, she offers this heartwarming reflection: "For me the sum of it all is at the table with friends and family, and sharing some good food."