The Matron Saint of Pasta

How Lidia Bastianich turned her Italian heritage into a culinary empire

Lidia Matticchio Bastianich is only 58, but she doesn't seem to mind if you think she's older. She presents herself to the world in matronly blouses or patterned smocks, with a sensible shade of red lipstick and a welcoming smile gracing her lunar face. She is thick in the middle, sprightly of eye and possessed of powerful momma's hands that have built a multimillion-dollar restaurant-and-food empire.

More than that, she has lived a life so rich in history that, by comparison, the attractive twentysomethings the Food Network so desperately wants to turn into stars seem like brummagem pretenders. When Bastianich was...

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