Chef Lidia Bastianich’s Beloved Mother ‘Grandma’ Has Died

While famed Italian-American chef Lidia Bastianich’s PBS culinary shows may bear her name, the real scene-stealer has been her mother, Erminia, whose death at age 100 earlier in February was recently announced.

Always smiling and encouraging, Grandma Erminia deeply influenced Bastianich’s work and family.

Italian-American chef Lidia Bastianich smiles for the camera
Italian-American chef Lidia Bastianich smiles for the camera | Ben Hider/Getty Images

Bastianich was by her mother’s side during the pandemic quarantine

The Lidia’s Kitchen host kept her mom and herself safely inside their New York City home during the recent quarantine. Bastianich’s mother, who made appearances on her daughter’s programs, was always a welcome sight.

The owner of Italian restaurant Felidia opened up about her experience staying home during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I am sequestered at home with my 99-year-old mother,” she told TimeOut in 2019. “She is well into her years but she is alert and enjoys a good game of cards and expects a good meal, especially when her daughter, the chef, is cooking.”

Grandma’s words of wisdom

On the My American Dream author’s website, she shared the wisdom her mother imparted to her throughout the years.

Bastianich grew up in a small city on the Istrian Peninsula (today, Croatia). She lived a happy childhood helping her grandmother prepare meals and tending orchards and vineyards. She and her family, however, lived under the suffocating Communist regime and finally, they had to leave quickly.

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Lidia’s family fled to Trieste, in Italy, where they would spend two years as refugees held in a camp.

“My father saw what was coming and wanted to get us out,” she told New York Lifestyle in 2015. “He sent us supposedly to visit relatives in Trieste while he remained behind. The Communists refused to let an entire family leave. They felt that by keeping at least one member behind, there was little chance they would defect to The West.”

Once their US visas arrived, they traveled to northern New Jersey and then to New York City.

The chef shared her mother’s words of wisdom about the delicate nature of life in a YouTube video.

“We all come from the ground,” ‘Grandma’ Erminia said in her comments. “And we go back to the ground. This way, the process of life is similar to the plants, more or less.”

Erminia’s death in February

Erminia died last month, her daughter tweeting that “My dear mother, Erminia, affectionately known as “’Grandma’ passed away quietly at home with me and the immediate family several days ago. Our team will be dedicating many of my future posts to her as we get through this difficult time.”

While no official date was given, the family matriarch seems to have died in the middle of February.

Bastianich dedicated her 2007 cookbook Lidia’s Italy to her mother whose strength and vision carried them in a new country: “This book is dedicated to Erminia, my mother, the nonna to my children and the bis nonna to my grandchildren. Without your unconditional love, your uwavering guidance and support, all of this could never have happened.”

Grandma will be missed on Lidia’s future culinary programs but will surely be there in spirit.