Entrepreneur Profile: Joe Bastianich

 

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Born in New York City in 1968 to immigrant Italian parents, Joe Bastianich grew up around restaurants and authentic Italian cuisine. His parents, Felice and Lidia, opened their first restaurant Buonavia in 1970 in Queens. His dad ran front of house and the kitchen and was the original “restaurant man”.  His mom was the cashier and tended the bar and once and while got in the kitchen. Each summer Joe, his sister Tanya, and his parents would fly to Italy to seek out local specialties for inspiration. In 1980, they opened their second restaurant Villa Secondi and later sold both restaurants to open Felida in Manhattan where his mom become the famous cook she is today.

Joe attended high school at Fordham Preparatory while helping in his parents’ restaurants dish washing and running to the meat market in the morning while having a paper route.  While on his route someone stopped him and offered him his first food-service job at the Bagel Den hand rolling the bagels on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  It was there that he claims he invented the everything bagel and learned that to make money in the food business by you need to sell things that have a greater margin than something like a bagel.

Hoping to escape the culinary world, Joe studied philosophy and political science at Boston College. His first post-grad job was on Wall Street on the Merrill Lynch trading floor. After one year he realized it wasn’t for him. He bought a one-way ticket to Italy and spent a year learning the language, the wine, the food, and the culture. Once he returned he opened Becco with his mother in New York City in 1993.

After meeting Mario Batali, an Italian – American chef who opened Po in the city, at an awards dinner the two became fast friends. One night they saw a “for rent” sign on an old restaurant and decided to opened their first joint venture, Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, which became the first Italian restaurant to get three stars from the New York Times in 40 years. Together the pair opened seven more restaurants in New York City like Del Posto and Lupa and formed the Batali and Bastianich Hospitably Group. Now they own restaurants in other cities such as Singapore and Las Vegas. In 2010, they opened Eataly, an Italian marketplace in New York City, originally founded in Italy, which has since expanded to Chicago, Tokyo, Munich, San Paulo and other cities in Italy.

Additionally, Joe founded the Bastianich winery in 1997 and worked in television. He appeared as a judge on Fox’s MasterChef USA, MasterChef Junior, and MasterChef Italia, hosted Restaurant Start Up, and cooked with his mother on Lidia’s Italy. Today, Joe lives in Greenwich, Connecticut with his wife Deanna and their three children. He believes that the greatest piece of advice from his mother that has guided his entrepreneurial spirit is “being tied to where you came from makes you who you are, and with a strong family there is nothing you can’t do”.