Saturday, May 12, 2012

"Restaurant Man," by Joe Bastianich

Remember Anthony Bourdain’s book, “Kitchen Confidential”? Remember how raw and rowdy and profane it was? But at the same time entertaining and informational? Joe Bastianich’s book, “Restaurant Man” (Viking, 2012) reminds me of that book. In both of these books, I imagine that the brash style probably does reflect the authors' personalities, but I also suspect that that style is somewhat hyped-up for effect. In any case, I enjoyed both, but with a sort of ongoing footnote of reservation (no pun intended…well, maybe a little bit!). Bastianich, like Bourdain, tells the story of his own life in the restaurant business, how it evolved over time, how his lifestyle changed over time, and how it all both reflected and affected his relationships with others. Bastianich is, along with his partners, the famed Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich (who happens to be his mother), the owner/operator of several well-respected and enormously successful restaurants in New York (Babbo, Del Posto, Lupa, Esca, Otto) and elsewhere. His life’s work is to show America what real Italian food and wine are (hint: not just spaghetti and meatballs in red-checked tablecloth restaurants). His story is very interesting, and he tells it well, albeit in the brash and f-word-filled prose mentioned above. Modesty seems to be a foreign word for him now, but he briefly lets us see a glimpse of his earlier insecurities, and he is also good at acknowledging the contributions of others, so as a reader I am inclined to forgive his somewhat excessive macho-ish self-regard. I admire the author’s successes, and I appreciate his service-oriented attitude; he truly wants his customers to feel well taken care of and happy. I have dined at Babbo and enjoyed it very much; we received the kind of service the author describes as his goal there. Next time I am in New York, perhaps I will try to get a reservation at Del Posto, one of the very few restaurants to earn four stars from the New York Times. “Restaurant Man” is a good read for those who love restaurants, especially New York restaurants, and I learned a lot about that world from this book.

1 comment:

  1. My friend Melinda wasn't able to post this comment, so I am posting it for her. Thanks, Melinda, for your comment! Here it is: "Happy Mother's Day...something I hope Joe remembers to tell Lidia today.'Brash' and 'hyped' I can take. But I'm not as generous of spirit as Stephanie, so am bothered by the sense of condescension I detect in his manner on the cooking shows filmed with Lidia. In contrast, Jacques Pepin strikes me as respectful, whether cooking with an aged expert like Julia Child or his daughter Claudine, who shows no natural culinary inclinations. His book, The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen,
    demonstrates that he values his mother's
    influence. Lighten up, Joe!"


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