Cigar Aficionado

Eating at Joe's

My phone rang, and the voice was a familiar one. “It’s Joe Bastianich,” he said. “I’d like you to come out to my house for a party. My mom will be cooking, and so will Mario.”

Food by Lydia Bastianich, the queen of Italian dining in New York City? Food by Mario Batali, chef at my favorite restaurant, Babbo? And at the Bastianich household?

How could I say no?

Yesterday afternoon I made my way up Joe’s long driveway in Connecticut, where the party was already underway. A big tent was set up in the front of the house, and that was the primary wine station, where sommeliers from the Bastianich restaurants poured tastes of his wines from Friuli, Tuscany and Argentina, including Bastianich Tocai Friuliano, a crisp white from the northeast of Italy, near where the Bastianich family hails from.

This party shows Joe’s devotion to the good life, and it was a celebration of fine food, fine and cigars. I wasn’t shy. The main table was decorated with large, wooden pizza peels, each layered with paper-thin slices of proscuitto that had been sliced on Joe’s antique Berkel slicers, which are cranked by hand. A chef at one station gave out layers of lasagna, and behind a large Viking grill was Mario Batali, wearing sunglasses and one of his trademark vests, smiling as he put rich basil pesto over pulled pork sandwiches on incredibly crusty bread. There was also grilled octopus (fantastic), asparagus (always nice) and some incredibly large white beans in olive oil (great).

The diet begins tomorrow. Honest.

I met Joe’s mother, Lidia, who told me she enjoyed the article I wrote on Joe in a recent issue of Cigar Aficionado. She told me she was supervising the dishes that were coming from the kitchen, and let me know that the risotto was coming out. I headed over to another table, where I took a taste of risotto made with a puree of spring vegetables, topped with goat cheese and thick, rich balsamic vinegar. Then there was the gelato station.

The treadmill. I need to hit the treadmill again.

It was a big party, with a band and around 150 guests. Joe came by after I had tucked into a few plates of food, and offered me a cigar, a Montecristo Petit Edmundo. I took a seat behind the house, fired up the Cuban beauty and enjoyed the sunshine while sipping an espresso.

Not a bad way to spend an afternoon. Thanks, Joe.

"Matthew, in my version of heaven I think I'd be playing with Ruth or Gherig rather than Ted Williams, but we're on the same page." —May 21, 2007 11:34 AM
"You've seriously described my version of heaven. All that is missing is the golf course that exactly replicates Augusta National, family members and close friends, and pitching bating practice to Ted Williams." —May 17, 2007 07:12 AM