Lidia Bastianich ‘Needs to Have her Hands Close to the Ground’ — in Queens

Sep 20, 2017 948

BY: Melissa McCart

Queens isn’t known for its gardens but Lidia Bastianich has maintained her own in the borough — Douglaston, to be specific, her residence of 30-plus years. It’s here that she’s planted an heirloom garden, shaped by her growing up in Istria, formerly Italian, now Croatian, across the water from Italy-at-large. While what she’s growing may not be served at her restaurants for volume and logistics sake, it has inspired the menu at her restaurants like Felidia, that’s been open since 1981.

Italian gardens aren’t a run-of-the mill tomatoes, squash, and herbs. They can be quite specific, with some immigrants building trellises for Concord grapes, drying seeds for vegetables like cucuzza, and planting Italian tomato varietals “anywhere there’s room,” says Bastianich, who points to plants next to black-eyed susans, tucked between rose bushes. “I need to have my hands close to the ground,” she says. It’s how she grew up, and it’s how she’s cooked, with her garden surrounding the entrance to her kitchen that’s outfitted with an expansive Viking range: This is where her PBS show Lidia’s Italian Table used to be filmed.

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