An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Jun 18, 2014
01:33 PM
The Connecticut Table

Joe Bastianich Stars in New Reality Show ‘Restaurant Startup’ on CNBC

Joe Bastianich Stars in New Reality Show ‘Restaurant Startup’ on CNBC

Joe Bastianich in a photo from his Facebook page.

If the recipe works correctly, going to a fine restaurant yields what you expect: great food—hopefully with unexpected but appreciated twists to kick-up the experience—in a favored atmosphere, with laser-precision service and a bill that fairly reflects the level on the dining hierarchy that you’ve chosen (or is lower than it might be, delivering luxe life at bargain status).

What you’re not supposed to see is everything behind the equation to deliver delight—the proverbial blood, sweat and tears, and the gritty details of the business model.

The simplified and clichéd way of expressing the same idea is a quote attributed to Otto von Bismarck: “Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.” In this case, substitute the term food ventures for the word laws. (Right, linguini with clams at Tarry Lodge Enoteca e Pizzeria in Westport.)

Increasingly, it seems, amid revelatory trends like chef’s table dinners and open kitchens, the counterbalance is restaurants riding their gloss factor for maximum impact.

“All you see in restaurants these days is the glitz and the glam,” restaurateur, TV food personality and Greenwich, Conn., resident Joe Bastianich says by cell phone from Italy on a recent afternoon.

We connected to talk about “Restaurant Startup,” the newest addition to CNBC’s primetime reality lineup, which debuts Tuesday, July 8, at 10 p.m. and features Bastianich vying against chef and restaurateur Tim Love to “invest their own money in food concepts they believe will make them millions.”

See a sneak peek of 'Restaurant Startup'

Each week, CNBC says, “two teams will make their case to our investors … for a shot at launching a temporary version of their great concept for a restaurant or a specialty food shop. Then we’ll open the doors and test the concept on the public. At the end of the process, our two investors will decide whether or not they will put their own money on the line to make someone’s dreams come true.”

“It’s a smart show,” says Bastianich, who started his career working in his parents’ Italian restaurant in Queens —meaning Felice and Lidia Bastianich, the celebrity chef, TV host, author and restaurateur. From washing dishes, cleaning the sidewalk, and touring the meat markets of the Bronx, Joe Bastianich rose to become one of America’s premier restaurateurs (think of  Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca (pasta dish, left) and Del Posto in New York City, B&B Ristorante and Carnevino in Las Vegas, Osteria Mozza in L.A. and closer to home, Tarry Lodge Enoteca e Pizzeria in Westport). He's also an Italian wine expert, an author and a triathlete. (Below, Bastianich attends the Grana Padano Events NYC Marathon Events on October 31, 2013 in New York City; photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Grana Padano.)

The show, Bastianich says, will educate people about what lies behind the glitz of food concepts and restaurants and give them a peek into the “sausage-making” aspect of successful ventures and “why the food culture is such an important part of our lives.”

“It’s real. It’s what I do,” says Bastianich of launching restaurants and of what viewers will see on a debut season that has wrapped production and will now be shown throughout July and August.

“To make a profit, to make it work is a viscious battle," Bastianich says.

Asked about his own most difficult launch, Bastianich says, “All the beginnings are very hard,” and then singles out his first restaurant, Becco, the one “when failure is not an option. … Everyone’s got one of those stories.”

Not everyone has a story like that of Del Posto, the 4-star “ultimate expression of what an Italian restaurant should be” in Manhattan that also represents a $50 million venture.

From its website: Del Posto is the richest and most refined creation of Mario (Batali), Joe, Lidia and partner/Executive Chef Mark Ladner. In October of 2010, Del Posto received a glowing four-star review from The New York Times, the first Italian restaurant to do so in nearly 40 years. At Del Posto, the ambiance of European luxury, palette-enlightening cuisine, polished service, and a world-renowned wine list culminate in an Italian dining experience unlike any other. Del Posto is proud to hold the coveted Relais & Chateux distinction, a 5 Diamond Award from AAA, and the Grand Award from the Wine Spectator.

On “Restaurant Startup” Bastianich and Love listen to dreams being described, put numbers to what they hear and, ultimately, make a judgment on wanting to buy in or not. “This couldn’t be more real. It’s all very powerful, good stuff,” says Bastianich, who opted to invest in a number of the ventures, which involve both restaurants and food concepts. (Right, Tuscan Seafood Stew at Carnevino in Las Vegas.)

Here’s a more detailed explanation of how the aspiring entrepreneurs featured on the show get to the point of scoring an investment:

Each week, one of the two teams featured moves forward. The chosen team is given the keys to a working restaurant on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. They get 36 hours and $7,500 to put their dream to the test and launch a pop-up restaurant; come up with a branding campaign; and write a business plan. Under the watchful eye of Bastianich and Love's culinary consultant, Waylynn Lucas, the aspiring food moguls open their doors, serve their food and test their concept on the public.
Based on the reaction from the diners, the quality of the branding and the viability of the business plan, Bastianich and Love decide whether or not they will put their own money on the line to make someone's dreams come true; and hopefully, make big money for themselves.

Bastianich says he was “mostly inspired” by what he saw and heard on the show, adding, “I always like to see what other people are doing.”

In terms of his own dining preferences, he—not surprisingly—likes “super high-quality food,” mostly Italian, and tends toward grains, pasta with fresh veggies and fish, in a nod to his training regimen as a triathlete.

Italian wines figure prominently in all of that, and if you need indoctrination, Bastianich suggests buying his books, Vino Italiano, its companion buying guide, and Grandi Vini. “Italy has the world beat on great $10 to $20 wines,” he says, adding that the “richness of Italy” in terms of its wines is embodied in the strengths of indigenous grapes, which vary region to region. In terms of pairing Italian wines and food, the easiest rule of thumb, Bastianich says, is “if it grows together, it goes together.” (Also check out the Bastianich wines.)

When he’s home in Greenwich, Bastianich says he likes to go to Douro Restaurant and Bar on Greenwich Avenue and the Elm Street Oyster House.

To see what Bastianich likes in terms of restaurant and food concepts that might arrive on the U.S. landscape, tune into “Restaurant Startup” on CNBC.

For more on Bastianich (bio below) see his website. (Below left, an octopus dish at Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca .)

Beginning with almost Dickensian roots, working in his parents’ Felice and Lidia’s Italian restaurant in Queens, washing dishes, cleaning the sidewalk, and touring the jungle-like meat markets of the Bronx, Joe Bastianich’s life charts a culinary adventure that ends with this nice Italian boy becoming one of America’s premier restaurateurs — as well as a noted wine expert, author, bon vivant, street-level philosopher, and eventually, a triathlete..
Joe’s story begins with him learning the ropes of the restaurant racket at the feet of his father, an ultra-pragmatic “restaurant man” who saw no glamour in his business. After college (and sometime following the Grateful Dead, and — God forbid — drinking beer!) Joe found himself working on Wall Street, where he used his knowledge of wine to level the playing field with the so-called “masters of the universe.”  After just a year working in finance, Joe ditched his suit and tie and went head first into a life of food and wine, buying himself a one-way ticket to Italy, where he spent the next year traveling the country in a beat-up Volkswagen, working in restaurants and on vineyards, digging himself deeper into his rich heritage.
Upon returning to New York, he partnered with his mother, Chef Lidia Bastianich, to open Becco, which quickly became a New York City favorite for its home-style pasta and eye-opening fixed-price wine list.
Soon after Joe became partners with the irrepressible Mario Batali, and is now the
less-publicly-vociferous but equally important power behind some of New York’s best restaurants, including the legendary Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, Lupa Osteria Romana, Esca, Casa Mono, Bar Jam¤în, Otto Enoteca Pizzeria and the much storied Del Posto. 
Along the way has conquered Las Vegas with B&B Ristorante and Carnevino, spectacular restaurants, mind-boggling in scope and style.  In Los Angeles, he and Mario’s collaborations with Nancy Silverton, Pizzeria and Osteria Mozza, have become legendary celebrity haunts, as famous for their food as for their A-list clientele. Closer to home, Joe and Mario’s Tarry Lodge in Port Chester, NY, and Tarry Lodge Enoteca e Pizzeria in Westport, CT, were embraced by their local communities. December of 2010 marked the duo’s first overseas venture with the opening of Pizzeria and Osteria Mozza in Singapore, followed by the opening of and Lupa Osteria Romana and Carnevino in Hong Kong in 2012.
Few others can claim as much gravitas as Joe Bastianich in pairing great wine with great food. Known as America’s foremost authority on Italian wine, his books, Vino Italiano, and its companion buying guide, written with sommelier and journalist David Lynch, are recognized as the ne plus ultra of the genre. His third book, Grandi Vini, an opinionated tour of Italy’s 89 finest wines, was released in the fall of 2010 to much critical acclaim. He has received Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional Awards from Bon Appétit magazine and James Beard Foundation, and in 2008 the James Beard Foundation honored him once again by presenting he and Mario with the much revered Outstanding Restaurateur Award.
Joe is also a regular guest on the TODAY Show, where he shares his down-to-earth expertise in the world of wine. In 2010, Joe joined the cast of FOX’s reality TV hit, MasterChef with Gordon Ramsay and Graham Elliot, where he uses his know-how for deciphering culinary talent to search from among thousands of amateur home cooks to find America’s next MasterChef. With the franchise’s international popularity growing at lightning speed, it didn’t take long for Joe’s beloved Italy to climb onboard, and in the summer of 2011, Joe joined fellow judges Carlo Cracco and Bruno Barbieri for the premiere season of Sky’s MasterChef Italia.
The summer of 2010 brought forth Joe’s next big venture in the world of Italian food and wine when he teamed up Italian retail pioneer Oscar Farinetti, Mario Batali, and Lidia Bastianich, to bring Eataly, the largest artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace in the world, to New York City. The marketplace has become New York’s ultimate destination for food lovers – an extravaganza that includes a premier retail center for Italian delicacies and wine, a culinary educational center, and a diverse slate of boutique eateries.
After taking up a challenge to run the New York City marathon in 2007, Joe has become an avid runner and passionate triathlete, and recently completed the 2011 Ford Ironman World Championships in Kona, HI. Consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 miles of biking, and a 26.2 mile run, this race is considered one of the most grueling physical experiences an athlete can undertake. 
In its first week of release in May of 2012, Joe’s highly anticipated memoir, Restaurant Man, became a New York Times Best Seller. In a bold retelling of a life lived steeped in the ever-evolving New York City restaurant scene, Joe brazenly shares the adventures that took him from his family’s first “red sauce joint” in 1970’s Queens, to the renowned culinary empire that is the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group of today.
When Joe is not working the dining room at one of his many restaurants he can be found at his home in Greenwich, CT, playing guitar and spending time with his wife, Deanna, and their three children, whom he counts as his greatest achievements to date.
Joe Bastianich Stars in New Reality Show ‘Restaurant Startup’ on CNBC

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