2006_04_lidia.jpgOn Sunday afternoons, when we're getting slightly upset about the weekend coming to a close and not getting nearly enough done, we find solace in watching Lidia's Family Table on Channel 13. It is, by far, one of the best cooking shows, and that's because Lidia Bastianich is our secret Italian grandmother - and that's not just because she makes a mean beef short ribs braised in red wine. A good part of it is probably kitchen envy - she has a big, bright kitchen (she lives in Douglaston Manor, Queens) filled with all sorts of pots and pans and beautiful Italian dishware to plate the food - but Lidia has a very calm, soothing voice (no fingernails-on-chalkboard Rachael Ray screeching here) and demeanor that makes us believe everything will be all better. And when she talks about food bringing families together, you believe her, since she usually involves her family in the show - there are apperances by her restaurateur son Joe and grandchildren, but the best is when her 84 year old mother Erminia comes in to show Lidia how to cook something. It's just a lovely, escapist yet possibly attainable, hunger-inducing half hour on Sunday afternoons, and after watching one episode, if you're not inspired to cook something yourself, you'll probably be inspired to appreciate what you have more.

Lidia's Family Table is on at 5:30PM on Sunday afternoon on Channel 13. Her NYC restaurants are Felidia, Becco and Del Posto (with son Joe and Mario Batali), which Gothamist visited last month. Two excellent NY Times articles about Lidia, unfortunately both Times Select: a profile from 2001 and a story about her cookbook, Lidia's Family Table.