Better Halves: Interview with Ottavia Busia Bourdain

ottavia_Raleigh.jpg
Ottavia Bourdain
Ottavia and her husband, Anthony Bourdain, relax with some banana daquiris at the Raleigh Hotel pool on South Beach.
If you're familiar with food porn, Ottavia's last name should ring a bell. Her husband is print, television, and most recently Martha Stewart Living radio food pornographer Anthony Bourdain, famous for his salacious tell-all memoir Kitchen Confidential and Travel Channel show, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. While we wish he would spend a little more time behind the line at Les Halles, we admire the New Yorker for his willingness -- perhaps compulsion -- to weekly admit his personal failings and shortcomings to a national audience. If sincere, he's an open book -- and an entertaining read at that. 

So what kind of woman is responsible for breaking Bourdain, turning this self-proclaimed cynic, more jaded than mint jelly, the veritable Rochester of the food world, into a delicate daddy of ringleted, two-year-old Ariane? Ottavia has been on No Reservations both as a featured character and in the periphery, so in January we recognized her on the beach during a visit to the Cayman Islands and made her acquaintance.  What we found, we immediately liked.  This northern Italian, who wed Bourdain in 2007 (it's his second marriage,) turned out to be not only friendly, but fun company. And since she'll hit the sand this week for the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, now is as good a time as any for us to get to know her a little better.

What's the best food market in NYC and why?  I love Agata & Valentina for their selection of Italian products, the Hungarian Meat Market for their delicious tripe goulash and bacon scones, Schaller & Weber for their cold cuts and Kinder Eggs. We do go to Whole Foods for our daughter.

What's your strategy for grocery shopping? Do you come with a list or just wing it?
  I just wing it. If I go out to buy toilet paper, you can be sure that's the one thing I forget to buy.

Do you eat in or out more?
Out. It seems like all our friends are chefs or restaurant people.

Who is the cleaner at home, you or your husband?
  Definitely my husband. He says I leave a trial of destruction everywhere I go. He's hyper-organized and a neat freak.

When you have to take transportation other than walking in NYC, do you prefer a car service, taxi, bus, or subway and why?
Taxi, because I'm lazy.

Boat, train or airplane and why?
Airplane, I hate flying, but time is a major consideration. If I could, I'd drive everywhere. I think I'm an excellent driver. My husband thinks I'm a dangerous maniac.  

What chef leaves you star stuck (besides your husband of course, ha!)?
  Ferran Adrià and Marco Pierre White, the first time I met them.

How do you take your coffee?
Three sugars and tons of cream. I go through a pint of cream a day just for my coffee.

What are your hobbies?
  I've an obsession with Mixed Martial Arts. I've a freestanding punching bag in the apartment.

Do you like to cook? Is there a favorite dish you make that your husband loves?  I love to cook. My fondest childhood memories are of cooking with my grandmother. When I was a kid I had a garden and chickens and rabbits in my backyard so I knew exactly where my food was coming from. My husband loves my Bucatini all'Amatriciana.  

Northern or Southern Italy, and why?
  Northern, because that's where I am from.

What's your favorite spot to have breakfast?
  We don't have breakfast. Ever.

Is there a favorite ingredient or food in Italy that you crave when you are in the States?
Canned meat in gelatin, like Manzotin or Simmenthal. This is something quite disgusting, but it's a guilty pleasure of mine and I can't find it anywhere in the States.  

What do you love about NYC?
Variety.

What gets on your nerves about NYC?
  Tourists who travel in packs and clog the sidewalks.

What's your favorite restaurant in NYC?
  I can't name just one! In no particular order: Le Bernardin (I used to work there a long time ago), Otto Enoteca Pizzeria, Momofuku Ssäm, Yakitori Totto, Marea, Salumeria Rosi, Sushi Yasuda..

Pet peeve in restaurants
: Fake Italian food.

Childhood ambition:
To marry Anthony Bourdain.
 
Most extraordinary food you have ever eaten: In recent memory, my dining experience at Alinea.  I decided to fly alone to Chicago and left my jaded husband behind. Dinner was amazing, the most fun I've had by myself in a long time.

Proudest moment:
The birth of my daughter.

Biggest challenge:
My husband's insane schedule.

Perfect day:
  Drinking banana daiquiris on the beach, my husband and daughter splashing around in the sea.

Perfect date with your husband:  A weekend in room #55 at the Chateau Marmont.

First job:
  Waitress in a pizzeria in Italy.

Indulgence:  When it comes to food I never deny myself anything.

Inspirations: Wrath, Greed, Sloth, Pride, Lust, Envy and Gluttony.


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