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.
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”).
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.”