'Food Is Love': Lidia Bastianich On Osso Bucco & Gastrosexuals

lidia bastianich with son joe bastianich

NYC-based chef and restaurateur Lidia Bastianich dishes on food, love & her son Joe's tough guy rap.

Getting to know somebody? Use it as a venue for trying to impress someone. Show yourself to that person through the food you cook.

When we take food in, it's such a basic, almost animal response—as is love, it's really basic. To enjoy a meal, put aside all the angers, take in nourishment. You're vulnerable, open to other things, to emotions.

In all your years in the restaurant business, you must have witnessed a ton of intimate moments between couples. What are some memorable ones?

We had a whole table of girls at lunch, and in comes the Tin Man from Wizard of Oz—this guy in full silver, dressed as a knight—he genuflects and proposes to this girl, all the friends were there. She almost fainted.

We see a lot of people putting the ring in the drink, too.

Isn't that somewhat dangerous? What if she drinks it?
It's usually a clear drink like a martini or glass of wine. Staff has to be ready in case she drinks it up! Sometimes it takes a while for her to notice. You can see the nervousness of the mate. Then after it happens, the whole dining room usually stands up and claps.

What about dates gone wrong? Have you witnessed these?

We see a lot of people walking out. Usually the woman walks out on the guy. Usually he runs after her, and they come back. Otherwise the guy tries to finish and casually asks for the check.

What's a great meal for celebrating a special occasion with a loved one, like an anniversary?

It has to reflect their special moments in life. Give them something to remind them of these moments. You also want foods that kind of caress you, that are mellow foods—not aggressive foods. Pasta is one of those foods, not a big piece of meat. It sensitizes your whole mouth. I'm thinking lasagna or linguine with clam sauce.

Paying attention to the appetizer. This is how you stimulate the beginning of an evening. Stimulate all the senses physically, and the mental effects follow. Caviar, salmon, prosciutto all make for great beginnings.

Second act should be mellow: pasta, risotto, truffles. Think aphrodisiac foods. They say oysters and all of that. I think it's the minerals. The physical stimulation. Whatever makes your body feel tingling. 

You also don't want to overindulge. Focus on balance and digestion. Good wine is very important. It completes the meal, the sensory part is delicious, it's celebratory. It relaxes you. Not too many though. If in doubt, the bubbles are always great, and can take you through the whole meal. I'd start with a great white and then switch to red.

For dessert... strawberries, dark chocolate. The chemical elements do work!