There’s hardly anything worse than a suck-up, and yet, when I got Lidia Bastianich on the phone, I felt inappropriately concerned with making her like me. The restaurateur, author, and weekly star of her own cooking show that tops my DVR list, is on tour for her new cookbook, Lidia’s Italy. She started our conversation by saying, “Sorry to make you wait, the cannoli tasting ran late.” Oh Lidia, it’s OK. Can I call you Mom?
Do you need some time to think about your last meal?
No, I think I know. For my last meal, I would like perfect, ripe figs and silky slices of prosciutto di San Daniele. Then I would have either linguine with clam sauce or linguine with garlic and oil. Either one—with some peperoncino.
How do you make your pasta with clams?
Just simple. Of course, start with very fresh clams. Open them first, and chop them a little bit. Then the peperoncino, toast it, put in some parsley, toss the linguine in the pan, and drizzle some olive oil. I like it a little on the juicy side. With most pasta dishes, you don’t want too much sauce. I don’t like a puddle. But with clam sauce, I do want a little puddle, because afterward, I’ll mop it up with some good bread.
Yes! And that can be a challenge—we make spaghetti with clams every Christmas Eve, for a big crowd, and my mother and sister and I obsess about whether there’ll be enough juice.
In that case, keep some extra on the side, and then you can drizzle it onto each plate.
Would you have anything else?
Just a ripe peach with gorgonzola, and of course, some good wine.
And would that be it for dessert?
A good espresso of course. And I could take a cornmeal cookie. Maybe a [caffé] corretto, with a little grappa.
Where would you want to be?
In the place of my childhood, either Istria or Trieste, by the sea, because I love the sea.
And then your clams could come right from there. Would you cook the meal yourself?
Yes, I would cook it, and I would need to share it with the family, and good friends. I can see a courtyard outside, near the sun and the sea. It would be a lazy afternoon, with the sound of a bee passing by, maybe a rooster somewhere. Those kinds of sounds. There would be a very lethargic feeling about it. Maybe we’d be in the shade of a fig tree—I could pick my own fig! That’s even better.