Sunday may be the most family-friendly day of the week, and so the holidays that pay homage to our progenitors -- Mother's Day, Father's Day and Grandparent's Day (the first Sunday after Labor Day, in case you forgot) -- are amenable to brunches, barbecues and leisurely afternoons at home.
But what if Mother's Day is one of your busiest business days? Do you skip work to celebrate Mom's livelihood, or risk offending her by tending to your own? It's quite the quandary, unless Mom is your boss. In that case, she'll probably be working right alongside you.
Take the busy Bastianich family, for example. Lidia Bastianich, the chef/restaurateur known for Felidia, her Grand Award-winning restaurant in Manhattan, successfully raised a family while managing her Italian empire, which has grown to include four restaurants in three cities, television shows, cookbooks and now a winery. She was so successful, in fact, that her two children, Joe Bastianich and Tanya Manuali, are now her business partners.
"You raise your children and let them go into the world and make their life," Lidia Bastianich said. "But both of my kids came back, and I got to become their mentor. I don't think there's any greater pleasure than that."
Since leaving Wall Street in the early 1990s to join his mother at Felidia, Joe Bastianich has inherited Lidia's entrepreneurial savvy. He's partnered with Mario Batali in several New York restaurants, including the Best of Award of Excellence-winning Babbo, and he co-owns a wine shop and two wineries in Italy (a joint venture with Batali and Lidia). His sister, Tanya, an art historian, runs Esperienze Italiane, Lidia's travel company.
One would think that a busy family with its hands in several projects would have difficulty landing in the same spot on holidays, but Lidia makes Mother's Day a priority. "Since we have four generations here in New York, we make it a point to be home and be together," she said. "For many years we weren't. I used to spend all of Mother's Day at the restaurant. We would gather in the restaurant early and eat, then the kids would go home with Grandma and I would cook."
Lidia has also imposed a rule to keep family gatherings focused on the family. "We never talk business at the family table," she said. "If we want to talk business, we either sit down in the office or set up a separate appointment. When my grandkids are around, that's my priority."
Although their restaurants will be packed on Mother's Day this year, the Bastianich family will take the day off and gather at Joe's house in Connecticut for grilled steaks and lobster risotto. They will also uncork one of their latest projects, the first wine from the new Batali-Bastianich winery in Maremma, the I Perazzi Morellino di Scansano 2002, which will soon arrive on American shelves, retailing at $15.
|On holidays, the team behind Commander's Palace (clockwise, from left) -- Dottie Brennan, Lally Brennan, Ti Martin and Ella Brennan -- consider their customers part of the family celebration.|
Other restaurant families choose not to skip work on holidays. The Brennan family, which owns the Award of Excellence-winning Commander's Palace, a New Orleans culinary landmark, celebrates Mother's Day with the diners.
Ella Brennan, who began running Commander's Palace with her sister Dottie and brothers Dick and John in 1974, has since handed many of the responsibilities to her daughter Ti Martin and niece Lally Brennan, but she remains a presence at the restaurant, aided by the fact that she and Dottie live next door.
Over the years, Brennan has learned that a family can work together and still enjoy the holiday. "In the early years, when I thought the restaurant business was easy, I would stay home and throw a big Mother's Day celebration," she said. "But I've learned that the restaurant business isn't easy, and I have to be at work. Mother's Day is one of the biggest days of the year for the restaurant, and we have many other days we can sit down and enjoy each other."
Martin said the family manages to sneak in a few minutes to celebrate. "Like any other holiday, we look forward to Mother's Day because it's when we see a lot of our dear friends and best customers," she said. "But at some point we'll find a moment to say, 'Oh yeah, happy Mother's Day,' and after things settle down, we'll get together next door and relax together."
There are also Brennans running restaurants in other parts of the country -- Ella's son Alex runs Brennan's of Houston, and her cousin Brad runs Commander's Palace in Las Vegas, both Award of Excellence winners -- and at some point in the evening, calls come in wishing a happy Mother's Day.
"I'm the luckiest kid around that I get to work with my mom," Martin said. "Lots of kids in family businesses are busy trying to get the older generation out, but we don't feel that way. They have so much to offer and are a lot more fun than half the people our age."
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