In a unique special this week, renowned chef Lidia Bastianich cooks up an international Christmas feast for a diverse group of celebrity guests.
In “Lidia Celebrates America: Home for the Holidays,” airing Friday (Dec. 11), on PBS (check local listings), the Emmy-winning host of “Lidia’s Italy” invites Oscar-winning actors Christopher Walken and Rita Moreno, former “Today” co-host Ann Curry, “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi, celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson and composer Carlo Ponti Jr. to her Queens, N.Y., home to dine on dishes inspired by each of their homelands.
“It was interesting to bring friends of different ethnicities because that was the point [of the special],” she tells Zap2it. “I know that I always revert at my house to [my] roots, to the flavors that you remember from your grandma. So I was wondering what all my friends were doing. Were they doing the same — all of these prominent American figures by now?”
The hourlong show tells the deeply personal stories of each guest, be it Walken’s upbringing in the Astoria section of Queens (where he knew Bastianich), Lakshmi’s culinary traditions of her homeland of India or Moreno’s experiences as a young Latina in mid-20th century New York City.
Moreno, the only one of the six guests Bastianich did not previously know, provided Bastianich will particular inspiration growing up.
“When I was a young immigrant,” says Bastianich, who was born in a northeastern Italy town that eventually became part of Croatia. ” ‘West Side Story’ was kind of all over the place and I related so much. You know, I used to admire her and her dancing. As a young girl you look at her and say ‘ Gee, could that be me?’ And so I related to her very much from that period of my life … so there were a lot of similarities.”