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Joe Bastianich's book: Restaurant Man

The book finally came out the other day. It is a good read, quite interesting. Unfortunately, it is laced with profanity... really laced and it was all unnecessary for the story he tells about himself and Batali.

Furthermore, the book is full of factual errors and shows that Bastianich doesn't know nearly as much as he wants everyone to believe. Here is the first of many mistakes: "Angelo Gaja and Bruno Giacosa were making great Barolos." Angelo Gaja making great Barolos? Where did you get that from Joe?

What Bastianich wants to show is that he knows all the players (he was talking about the early 80s here) so that he gets bragging rights. Unfortunately, there are sentences like this where you know he is just making stuff up in order to name drop.

Nonetheless, it is an interesting book and he doesn't pull any punches on his likes and dislikes (see the sections on John Mariani and Steve Cuozzo).

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  1. http://www.bm-auer.com/Gaja.htm

    I have not yet read the book, but it would appear that at least some wine "authorities" think Gaja makes some fine barolos. And I think he does know his stuff. Owning 3 or 4 vineyards and a dozen or more restaurants will do that for a guy.

    1. "Unfortunately, it is laced with profanity... really laced and it was all unnecessary for the story he tells about himself and Batali."

      Is he anymore profane than everyone's "god" Anthony Bourdain?

      1 Reply
      1. re: ttoommyy

        Hell I could write bourdain's claptrap-he is no god

      2. If it's by Joe Bastianich, I think they should re-title it Restaurant Manbaby. :)

        15 Replies
        1. re: inaplasticcup

          This. He is such a tool on Masterchef and every time I see him on Lidia's show he is sullen and acts like he doesn't want to be there. Will never by the book.

          jb

          1. re: JuniorBalloon

            @Mayor of Melonville

            In the late 1970s and early 80s, which is the time period Bastianich is speaking about, Angelo, a friend of mine, did not own anything in Barolo.

            I happen to like some of Bastianich's "Friulanos" in some years. Read what he says about opening a bottle away from the table (after showing the bottle), pouring out a glass of great barolo for himself (at Felidia) and then filling up the bottle with the house red, and taking it back to the table to the unsuspecting customer. Shameful, and it still goes on, not here in Italy, but in the States.

            @ttoommyy
            Bastianich is no more profane than Bourdain (who is a complete novice when it comes to Italian food), but that doesn't make it right. An interesting book, but the profanity is gratuitous.

              1. re: allende

                "An interesting book, but the profanity is gratuitous."

                But if that's the way a person talks and he is trying to sell himself as a brand then why not write like he speaks? After all, his core readership will probably be kitchen and restaurant staffers. Ever spend any time behind the scenes at a restaurant? I have. You can't help but curse with every other sentence! lol

                1. re: ttoommyy

                  Oh phooey,I've worked in restaurants for years,and save cussing for really effective moments.Constant f-ing makes people sound dumber than they really are,as it does in this interesting,but often spiteful,book.

                  1. re: geendatz

                    Cursing has nothing to do with intelligence. They are just words. And sometimes they are the only words that convey what one feels.

                    1. re: ttoommyy

                      If someone curses too often, then when the need to really curse arises, it is ineffective.

                2. re: allende

                  What an a-hole!

                  "Read what he says about opening a bottle away from the table (after showing the bottle), pouring out a glass of great barolo for himself (at Felidia) and then filling up the bottle with the house red, and taking it back to the table to the unsuspecting customer."

                  1. re: allende

                    That wine gambit is dishonest, I'm surprised he admitted to that.

                    I have no problem with him on Masterchef (though I'm not a regular viewer), but his presence on Lidia's show always rubs me the wrong way. He just doesn't seem to know his way around a kitchen (I mean, I guess he's not a chef, but still) and that reminds me of the Urban Peasant guy that I used to loathe as a kid.

                    1. re: randomthoughts

                      "He just doesn't seem to know his way around a kitchen (I mean, I guess he's not a chef, but still)"

                      I bet he knows his way around a professional kitchen in his restaurants. What you are observing is his discomfort in a home kitchen, with his mother watching/dictating and cameras filming his every move. :)

                      1. re: ttoommyy

                        On the show, both Joe and Tanya seem deeply ill at ease next to mamma, as if they'd rather be anywhere else. Must be some interesting holiday dinners.

                        1. re: bob96

                          I've been to events with Lidia and Tanya hosting and they are very at ease with one another. I really think it is being in front of the cameras that gets to both Tanya and Joe.

                  2. re: JuniorBalloon

                    +1 JB. I, too, have often wondered about his on-screen presence, or lack thereof. He comes across as disgruntled and impatient. I caught an earlier appearance of him on the old "Molto Mario" show and he was quick to upstage MB when talking about the wine. Overall, a VERY sullen person who does not exude much enthusiasm about anything. All I can say is his children are his only apparent positive contribution to Lidia's family-styled show.

                    1. re: njmarshall55

                      He's a sullen, self-indulgent mama's boy. Every Italian-American family has at least one. :)

                      1. re: ttoommyy

                        In the book he comes across as very insecure.

                3. Allende: I'm glad you mentioned that because I wondered myself about the Gaja reference. I am finding the details about running a restaurant to be fascinating although the author does not seem to be a very simpatico character and the many details of his (cringeworthy-sounding) young adult wardrobe are less than interesting! But he does seem to have put in his dues in the business.

                  1. Here's a link (one of many) to the Cuozzo-Mariani-Bastianich kerfuffle. Seems Joe just gets his pissy stuff wrong, though I have no dog in this pasticcio. He does radiate a sense of sour resentment that makes you want to say, sheesh, just suck it up and enjoy your success. So what if you're completely without charm or personality? http://ny.eater.com/tags/steve-cuozzo

                    1. We eat at one of his and Batali's restaurants semi-frequently and, in light of all his "insights" shared in this book, I just keep thinking, " if this is how he views his patrons/customers, is his attitude contagious among the staff in his restaurants?". That's bothersome to me.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: MRS

                        Agreed; the book can't possibly help his restaurant biz. It's one thing to be the bad cop on MasterChef; quite another to extol the practice of disparaging and ripping off patrons.

                          1. re: Mayor of Melonville

                            Have either of you -- MRS or Mayor of Melonville -- read the book?

                            He does not disparage his customers; in fact, in many instances he extols the virtues of valuing a customer but in balance with turning a profit.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              i haven't. I was only curious b/c we go to one of his places frequently. I have no issue w/ the restaurant. It was just something I was thinking about...

                          2. re: MRS

                            I frequent one of his establishments frequently and pretty much every employee I've spoken to says Joe is a tool and Lydia, not so nice either. One of his kids is pretty obnoxious too ( completely inappropriate with one of the staff) this I witnessed firsthand. I don't want to discuss details due to concern for staff. As for staff it is split. Some are ridiculously nice, courteous and knowledgable, and some are nasty and just don't give a shit. I'm always afraid the nice ones are going to leave.

                          3. Does he discuss his parents' divorce?

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: TrishUntrapped

                              He does not use the word divorce. He makes it very clear, however, that there were major problems between his father and mother as she became more famous after they opened Felidia. According to Bastianich, Felice felt a lot of resentment toward his wife.

                              I take it from your comment that there was a divorce.

                              1. re: allende

                                Yes, Lidia and her husband Felice (The "Fel" in her flagship restaurant Felidia, Lidia of course being the "Lidia" in Felidia) divorced in 1997. Reports claim Lidia's fame went to her head and she dumped Felice from her life and business. I wondered if that had an effect on Joe, especially since there were many business reasons for the divorce.

                              2. I think he is just a rude, full of himself man, nothing like what Lydia portrays her family, would not buy the book at full price, MAYBE one day if I find it at a thrift store.
                                I

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: dolly52

                                  You can get it on the Kindle for much less.

                                  He is totally full of himself. Keeps talking about how ego gets many restaurateurs in big trouble (and names them), but to me, he has the biggest ego of them all (i.e. I make the best white wine in Italy). Sorry Joe, some of your white wine is fine, but only some of it, and only fine; nothing to get excited about.

                                  He professes to really care about his clientele, but if that is what passes for care, then I don't want to see what happens when he doesn't. His description of how he treats his clientele is totally different from the way comparable restaurants here in Italy treat their clientele.

                                2. I don't know enough about the wine world to spot errors, but when I read his acknowledgements, I thought "what a lovely, humble guy!". As I got into the rest of it, it was like watching Clark Kent emerge from the telephone booth revealing Superman, except in this case, the transformation was into RESTAURANT MAN, with his foul mouth and cockiness. Growing up, his role model was his old-school, old-country dad who thought that whatever you had, there were always people in line ready to take it away from you. It sounds like it was true then and probably often true now. Your "product" passes through too many hands for that not to be the case. I can imagine he *is* a lovely, humble guy with the people he cares about but it's a tough business, hence RESTAURANT MAN. I'm liking the book, so far.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Pat Hammond

                                    Thanks for the honest assessment Pat. You make me want to read the book.

                                    1. re: ttoommyy

                                      Quote:
                                      "old-school, old-country dad who thought that whatever you had, there were always people in line ready to take it away from you. It sounds like it was true then and probably often true now. Your "product" passes through too many hands for that not to be the case."

                                      One of my grandfather's favorite sayings was "you can't have anything". In reference to people wanting to take "it" away or ruin it in some way.

                                      I read the first chapter today on Amazon and found it interesting. Maybe this will cause me to finally buy that Kindle I've been considering.

                                      1. re: kengk

                                        i read the book. found it unfortunate. joe b is a good guy and a smart guy but it seems like he went out of his way to seem as crass and crude as he could. spoken language is different than written. what might seem colorful and even expressive when said over a hot stove looks like the words of someone with a very limited vocabulary when its in print. i think it would have been a lot better book if he hadn't been out to prove what a "regular guy" he was.

                                        1. re: FED

                                          i think it would have been a lot better book if he hadn't been out to prove what a "regular guy" he was.

                                          ______________________

                                          I did not get that sense.

                                          1. re: FED

                                            "spoken language is different than written. what might seem colorful and even expressive when said over a hot stove looks like the words of someone with a very limited vocabulary when its in print."

                                            If he had hired a ghost writer, cleaned up the language and sounded like a Harvard grad, people would have chastised him for that. I give him credit for just putting it out there and letting it fly. I'd rather read what the real JB has to say about the business and in his terms than what a ghost writer or editor thinks JB is trying to say in pretty prose.

                                            1. re: ttoommyy

                                              Some of his writing about wine is downright lyrical.

                                    2. By the way, is what he said about inventing the "everything bagel" true?

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        I have not read the book yet, Ipse. But I worked in a bagel shop during college and if he said that they sweep all the seeds underneath the bagel bins and then spread what was picked up onto bagels, then YES. That is how you get an "everything bagel".

                                        1. re: pdxgastro

                                          Well, yes, I understand that.

                                          But his point was that he "invented" that. True?

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            I honestly don't see how that can be and can't understand why no one has made this point already. Apparently Joe was born in 1968, That's a few years (I won't say exactly how many) after I was born. I was eating everything bagels in Brooklyn since I was a kid. Unless Joe invented them and popularized them sometime between snack time and nap time in kindergarten, I can't see how this could be possible.

                                            1. re: rockycat

                                              I don't ever recall everything bagels in metro NY until years later, though I cannot claim to have made it to every single bagel shop. Not for lack of trying... Here's another story http://www.npr.org/templates/story/st... and a follow up: http://www.bookofjoe.com/2008/03/orig... These both jibe with my timeline, best I can recall.

                                      2. I'm a couple chapters away from finishing. I've enjoyed the book so far, especially for all the restaurant truisms and business insights he offers. His boasting about inventing the "everything bagel" and producing the best white wine in Italy comes off as that one friend who starts spouting off once he's had a bit too much to drink. "Yeah man, the ev-er-y-thing bagel ...totally me man. I invented that..." I'll chalk that up there with my invention of cilantro pesto. I never saw a recipe for it, never heard of the concept before, came up with it on my own one day and pat myself on the back. Little did I know that Bobby Flay and others had been doing it for years.

                                        Back to the book, I didn't know much about Bastianich before but I figured that a guy who was able to claw his way to the top of the NYC restaurant and wine world probably isn't the most humble or gracious of characters.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: d8200

                                          "claw his way to the top..."? Not sure he's at the apex of the NYC scene...and I wonder how far he would have gotten WITHOUT his iconic name...

                                          1. re: njmarshall55

                                            He might not run "the best" restaurant in NYC, but he has his hands in roughly a dozen or so successful places. In business terms, I'd say he's definitely in the top percentage of restauranteurs in the US. However, I'm with you on the name. He mentioned several times in the book how he tried to shake the image of a mama's boy and didn't want people thinking she opened all the doors for him, but then he'll state how he went to live in Italy after his stint on Wall Street and basically couch surfed for over a year, staying at family friends' homes and estates. He'll casually name drop the best vintners in Italy and act like he just wandered in off the street and was able to hang with these people. Doubtful...someone greased the wheels for him, I suspect.

                                            1. re: d8200

                                              I doubt he was couch surfing. Staying in guest suites, if not guest wings, of peoples estates is more like it. The name had to have a major impact on just how well he was, and is, treated in Italy and in NYC.

                                        2. "Nonetheless, it is an interesting book and he doesn't pull any punches on his likes and dislikes"
                                          that doesn't surprise me at all. seems blunt.

                                          1. Does Joe mention stealing money from his employees and being ordered by the courts to repay them $5 million? How about the slave in his mama's house? Did he mention her?