11/22/2010 01:26 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Jay McInerney Discovers Italy's Wines With Joe Bastianich

Although he's shrunk considerably since I first met him a decade ago, thanks to a long-distance-running habit, Joe Bastianich is cutting a very large figure these days. Once best known as the partner of chef Mario Batali and the son of chef Lidia Bastianich, both stars of the small screen, the newly svelte restaurateur has stepped into the spotlight recently. This summer he appeared as a judge on Fox's "Master Chef." He's a partner in the hugely successful Eataly, Manhattan's new Disneyland for foodies. And he's just published "Grandi Vini: An Opinionated Tour of Italy's 89 Finest Wines." Mr. Bastianich has created one of the most influential restaurant empires in America, but wine is his great passion, the subject that really gets his juices flowing.

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