MasterChef Joe Bastianich

Beginning with almost Dickensian roots, working in his parents Felice and Lidia’s Italian restaurant in Queens, washing dishes, cleaning the sidewalk, and touring the jungle-like meat markets of the Bronx, Joe Bastianich’s life charts a culinary adventure that ends with this nice Italian boy becoming one of America’s premier restaurateurs — as well as a noted winemaker, bon vivant, street-level philosopher, and eventually, a marathon runner..

Joe’s story begins with him learning the ropes of the restaurant racket at the feet of his father, an ultra-pragmatic “restaurant man” who saw no glamour in his business. After college (and some time following the Grateful Dead, and — God forbid — drinking beer!) Joe found himself working on Wall Street, where he used his knowledge of wine to level the playing field with the so-called “masters of the universe.”  After just a year working in finance, Joe ditched his suit and tie and went head first into a life of food and wine, buying himself a one-way ticket to Italy, where he spent the next year traveling the country in a beat-up Volkswagen, working in restaurants and on vineyards, digging himself deeper into his rich heritage.

Upon returning to New York, he partnered with his mother, Chef Lidia Bastianich, to open Becco, which quickly became a New York City favorite for its home-style pasta and eye-opening fixed-price wine list.

Soon after Joe became partners with the irrepressible Mario Batali, and is now the less-publicly-vociferous but equally important power behind some of New York’s best restaurants, including the legendary Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, Lupa Osteria Romana, Esca, Casa Mono, Bar Jam¿n, Otto Enoteca Pizzeria and the much storied Del Posto.  

Along the way has conquered Las Vegas with B&B Ristorante and Carnevino, spectacular restaurants, mind-boggling in scope and style.  In Los Angeles, he and Mario’s collaborations with Nancy Silverton, Pizzeria and Osteria Mozza, have become legendary celebrity haunts, as famous for their food as for their A-list clientele.  Closer to home, Joe and Mario’s Tarry Lodge in Port Chester, NY, opened to a warm welcome by the local community.

Because great food should never be enjoyed without equally outstanding wine, Joe ventured into his ancestral Friuli-Venezia Giulia to create the acclaimed estate, Azienda Agricola Bastianich.  In Maremma, Tuscany, he, Lidia and Mario established the wine estate La Mozza s.r.l., where they also bottle a delicate olive oil from groves in the Colli Orientali and Trieste.  Joe teamed up with California winemaker Steve Clifton and Argentine enologist Matias Mayol in the Malbec-growing region of Mendoza to create Tritono, his first venture into New World wine.  Most recently, he acquired Agricola Brandini, in Barolo, La Morra, which produces modern-style wines with minimal human intervention and is certified organic.

Few others can claim as much gravitas as Joe Bastianich in pairing great wine with great food. Known as America’s foremost authority on Italian wine, his books, Vino Italiano, and its companion buying guide, written with sommelier and journalist David Lynch, are recognized as the ne plus ultra of the genre. His third book, Grandi Vini, an opinionated tour of Italy’s 89 finest wines, was released in the fall of 2010 to much critical acclaim. He has received Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional Awards from Bon Appétit magazine and James Beard Foundation, and in 2008 the James Beard Foundation honored him once again by presenting he and Mario with the much revered Outstanding Restaurateur Award.

Joe is also a regular guest on the Today Show, where he shares his down-to-earth expertise in the world of wine. In 2010, Joe joined the cast of FOX’s reality TV hit, MasterChef with Gordon Ramsay and Graham Elliot, where he uses his know-how for deciphering culinary talent to search from among thousands of amateur home cooks to find America’s next MasterChef. With the franchise’s international popularity growing at lightning speed, it didn’t take long for Joe’s beloved Italy to climb onboard, and in the summer of 2011, Joe joined fellow judges Carlo Cracco and Bruno Barbieri for the premiere season of Cielo’s MasterChef Italia.

For Joe’s next venture in the world of Italian food and wine, he has teamed up Italian retail pioneer Oscar Farinetti, Mario Batali, and Lidia Bastianich, to bring Eataly, the largest artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace in the world, to New York City. The marketplace has become New York’s ultimate destination for food lovers – an extravaganza that includes a premier retail center for Italian delicacies and wine, a culinary educational center, and a diverse slate of boutique eateries.

After taking up a challenge to run the New York City marathon five years ago, Joe has become an avid runner and passionate triathlete, and recently completed the 2011 Ford Ironman World Championships in Kona, HI.Consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 miles of biking, and a 26.2 mile run, this triathlon is considered one of the most grueling physical experiences an athlete can undertake.  

When Joe is not working the dining room at one of his many restaurants or in Italy tending his vines, he can be found at his home in Greenwich, CT, playing guitar and spending time with his wife, Deanna, and their three children, whom he counts as his greatest achievements to date.

Visit his site HERE.