Italian celebrity Joe Bastianich calls Italian diners “idiots”

joe bastianich deficiente

Above: Joe Bastianich is an even bigger celebrity in Italy than in the U.S.

One of the first things that Lidia Bastianich told me when she cooked lunch for me and a group of wine bloggers at the family’s farmhouse in Friuli was how her son Joe has eclipsed her fame in Italy.

“We were in Piazza San Marco [in Venice] and a group of teenagers came up to us and wanted Joe’s autograph — not mine,” she said.

As a star of one of Italy’s most popular TV shows (“Master Chef”), Joe has achieved a level of celebrity in Italy that few in the U.S. are aware of.

His name was hurled across the Italophone enogastronomic blogosphere this week when, in a video interview posted online by the national daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, he called Italian diners “idiotic,” using the Italian term deficiente.

joe bastianich restaurant guy

Above: Click here for a bilingual dictionary entry for “deficiente.”

The editors of the Corriere site titled their post “Italiani clienti difficili, quasi deficienti” (“Italian [restaurant] clients [are] difficult, nearly idiotic”). But then, evidently in the wake of messages from pissed-off readers, they changed the quote to “Italian clients [are] know-it-alls” (using the Italian saputelli).

I read about the editorial incident on an Italian food and wine blog we follow, Dissapore.

And when I watched the video, I noted that he doesn’t actually say “quasi deficienti” but rather “un po’ deficienti” (“You, Italians, as [restaurant] clients, are a little bit idiotic”).

I was surprised that this little nugget didn’t find its way to Grub Street or Eater.

But then again, their editors don’t read Italian blogs. And perhaps they don’t know what a huge celebrity Bastianich is in Italy these days.

As the wise Charlie Sheen once noted, “there’s no training course for fame.”

9 thoughts on “Italian celebrity Joe Bastianich calls Italian diners “idiots”

  1. After living in/near Rome for almost a decade, I can say that I almost agree. Afterall, Sè magna bene a Roma. In my town, the quality of food is mediocre at best, and the locals think you are eating well if you leave with a full belly and pay little. Eataly in Rome? Food culture is going downhill, and quickly. Being Italian is not a credential for eating well and knowledge of food culture.

  2. In all fairness to Joe, one of the readers, an Italophone, comments in the comment section of the post noting that “anyone whose ever worked as a salesperson in Italy knows that Italians are indeed idiots.”

  3. the man seems to be egotistical and arrogant. it’s a good thing he a “back of the house” man. he has no personality for greeting customers who are spending good money in his “schlock” restaurants.

    • You are right. He does come across as very racist especially towards Asians in general. He is also biased and has endorsed Italian contestants on Masterchef on many occasions. Not to mention, he is very egotistical and obnoxious. Not a man I would like to be around.

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