Lidia Bastianich: Bring the Kids

Lidia Bastianich believes that children learn from eating dinner with their families. Her new book, Nonna, Tell Me A Story ( review), is all about the ways food is so much more then mere nourishment. Her restaurants serve family dinners on Sundays, like other chefs across the country who are trying to encourage younger customers to go beyond chicken fingers and pizza.

Super Chef decided to find out just how kid-friendly Lidia’s restaurants are. With a young eater in tow, Super Chef visited the Carnegie Museum of Natural History for some educational fun — and then tried Lidia‘s for lunch for a different -– and equally important -– kind of education.

The restaurant resides in Pittsburgh’s “Strip” shopping district. It has a huge room, made cozier with a well-tended fire in the corner and chandeliers of colorful grappa bottles rather like balloons. There are deep banquets for squirmy kids, and good light for reading a menu. The service is exceptionally gracious. They do have a “children’s menu” but only offer it if you ask. Don’t ask: children can order off the regular menu, with the restaurant ready to scale dishes to kid-size.

There are two terrific dips for bread and olive oil -– a garbanzo with basil pesto and cannellini with Kalamata olives -– smooth and very fun with bread.

The Pasta Trio is the most fun: three luscious pastas, instead of one. (If you like one, just order more.) The Spaghetti alla “Trapanese” is topped with a mound of deep-fried squid and shrimp over pasta.

Perhaps the best dish was a humble plate of chicken livers, topped with crunchy, light fried onions over creamy polenta.

Chocoholics? Get the Torta di Cioccolata con Castagne (and teach your kids a bit of Italian). Let them eat the milk chocolate mousse, and then dive into the bittersweet chocolate ganache, chocolate torta, and chestnut mousse.

If you like lemon with your espresso, then definitely choose the Lemon Basil Tart, light and delicate.

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