Joe Bastianich, on Wine
“The ultimate condiment for food”
-Francine Segan, food+home editor
Joe Bastianich‘s life charts a culinary adventure that ends with this nice Italian boy becoming one of America’s premier restaurateurs – as well as a noted winemaker and vineyard owner.
He learned the ropes of the restaurant racket at the feet of his father, an ultra-pragmatic “restaurant man” who saw no glamour in his business. After college (and some time following the Grateful Dead, and – God forbid – drinking beer!) Joe found himself working on Wall Street, where he used his knowledge of wine to level the playing field with the so-called “masters of the universe.” After just a year working in finance, Joe ditched his suit and tie and went head first into a life of food and wine.
He is now partners with celeb chef Mario Batali, and is the less-publicly-vociferous but equally important power behind some of New York’s best restaurants, including the legendary Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, Lupa Osteria Romana, Esca, Casa Mono, Bar Jam?n, Otto Enoteca Pizzeria and the much storied Del Posto.
Joe’s book on Italian wine, Vino Italiano, and its companion buying guide, written with sommelier and journalist David Lynch, are the wine lovers’ must-haves. He is a regular guest on the Today Show, has received Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional Awards from Bon Appetit magazine and James Beard Foundation. In 2008, the James Beard Foundation honored him once again by presenting he and Mario with the much revered Outstanding Restaurateur Award.
I’m going to be interviewing both Joe and Mario for a live audience event in NYC in October and thought it might be nice to get to know him a little before then. I recently had the chance to chat with Joe about wine.
What is your favorite wine for spring-time sipping?
Actually, I have three favorite spring wines! My first is Prosecco, an affordable bubbly wine from the Veneto region of Italy. It’s light and so perfect for Spring. It is great straight, but also goes wonderfully with fruit juices like peach or blood orange juice. Prosecco is especially wonderful with appetizers. I also love Sauvignon Blanc Bastianich Bee, a wine from Fruilli. It reminds me of violets, Easter, and spring. It has aromas of mint and tropical fruit with a refreshing finish. It’s great with fish, vegetables, omelets with herbs, risotto with asparagus … so many spring dishes! My third most favorite for spring is Rosé, especially my own Rosato, which has the aroma of plums and rose petals. My mom, Lidia Bastianich, loves it.
How often do you drink wine?
Every night! Seriously. Wine is the ultimate condiment for food!
That’s a great phrase, “ultimate condiment for food” … did you just make it up?
Yes, it just popped into my head as we were talking. I really believe that wine can be integrated into any lifestyle. Wine adds to a meal and gives pleasure.
You’re partners with Mario Batali, both in your restaurants and in your wine company. How’d that come about?
Mario and I were both living in Italy back in the ‘90s. We met and really hit it off. We became friends and then business partners. Our first restaurant together was Babbo in NYC back in 1998. Then we started making wines together a few years ago.