Q&A with Joe Bastianich

The über-restaurateur on artisanal pasta, Fellini films and conquering the Kona Ironman.

Five years ago, Joe Bastianich, winemaker, "MasterChef" judge and restaurateur (who owns some of the country's best eateries with partner Mario Batali), was diagnosed with a severe case of sleep apnea — and promptly overhauled his lifestyle. He immediately started running, lost 60 pounds and, this fall, completed the Kona Ironman and NYC marathon within less than a month of one another (no big). We caught up with Bastianich post-recovery to find out how he manages to wear his restaurant hat with running shoes.

Typical workout:
I’ll run six miles to the gym. When I’m there I do free weights, sit-ups and a yoga class, then I run home. 

The high point of his recent races:
Doing Kona was the highpoint of my life, aside from having my kids. That race, that place … it’s kind of mystical. It’s one of those rare occasions where your body and the training that you’ve done become the physical aspect of achieving a much higher level of experience and satisfaction.

The low point:
Getting off the bike after six hours and having to run a marathon. 

How he makes time to work out:
I just do it. I wake up in the morning, send the kids to school and I get out and run. I have a flexible work schedule, so I’m lucky.

Why endurance sports work for him:
It’s my meditation. It’s my private time. Especially after you get to a certain age in life, it really helps to reconcile your physical being and mental being.

His favorite healthy meal:
Pasta with tomato sauce. But not just any pasta, it’s very specific: Spaghetti di Gragnano (a type of artisanally made spaghetti from Italy) and the pomodoro sauce that I make with San Marzano tomatoes. 

Why he'd never go Atkins:
Pasta and bread are a big part of my diet. I’ve found that the key is quality and moderation — and the simpler the better. Stay away from processed anything and substitute olive oils for trans-fats (no bacon, no butter). That being said, don’t sacrifice flavor: grate some Grana Padano atop fresh pasta. It’s about using ingredients for their greatest culinary impact while minimizing the negatives they can have on you while used improperly or excessively.

Best insider tip:
A lightbulb moment for me came from working with triathlon trainers. You have to stop looking at food as a reward or an exclamation point to your day and start to look at it as fuel for your athletic ambitions. That’s when the whole world changed for me.

His favorite kitchen appliance:

My antique Berkel slicers. I collect and use these hand-crank slicers from the '20s, '30s and '40s for cutting prosciutto.


Two Bastianich obsessions: an antique Berkel slicer and Fellini movies.


His latest obsession:
I’m really into Fellini movies. I can’t stop. I’m watching, like, one a day. 

Where he feels most at home:
In my restaurants, because that’s my world. I grew up in a restaurant, I’ve lived in restaurants; they’re kind of my environment.

The wardrobe item he can’t live without:
I just got into these Seven for all Mankind jeans. I was always a Levi’s guy, but I really like these so I wear them every day now.

What book is on his bedside table:

Courage to Be by Paul Tillich. Very powerful stuff.

His biggest vice: 
My biggest vice is also my biggest passion: Wine.

What his kids would say about him:
That I’m a good runner, that I make good pancakes, and that I can play guitar well.

His style icon:
Probably Gianni Agnelli, the ex-founder and president of Fiat. He was very much a style icon in the '50s and '60s in Italy, both in his personal style and with the aesthetic revolution in automobiles.

His health hero:
I’ve always been a fan of Lance Armstrong’s. Obviously he’s had a lot of shit in his life but he’s also been able to balance a quest for aesthetic pleasure with an incredible ability to endure pain.

His favorite vacation:

Skiing with my kids in the Dolomites in Italy for Christmas and New Year’s. 

Three things still on his bucket list:
To summit Everest or K2, to race my car in the Mille Miglia vintage car race in Italy and to surf big waves in Hawaii. 

His number one reason for taking care of his body:

Because my body takes care of me. It's a reciprocal relationship. 

The most surreal moment in his career thus far:
I just wrote a book and submitted the galleys. Completing that was a very introspective and cathartic moment.

Message he’d send to the world with one request. (Only catch: It has to be 140 characters or less.):
I would say, "Be kind, even when you don’t have to. Be generous all the time. And (this is what my Grandmother told me) don’t do anything to anybody you wouldn’t want them to do to you."