Del Posto, Eataly and the fate of Mario Batali’s former Italian empire

For 16 years, 85 Tenth Ave. was all about glamour. There have been purse stools prepared to carry designer purses aloft, a gleaming Steinway piano and servers in pristine fits serving dear tasting menus to starry friends like Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Now, there’s pizza cooked in an enormous oven that resembles a disco ball and a bartender with a man-bun shaking up espresso martinis.

As soon as the crown jewel of Mario Batali’s empire, Del Posto completely shuttered a 12 months in the past. The high-quality eating spot’s former govt chef and companion, Melissa Rodriguez, has dramatically reimagined the area with a trio of recent informal eating places, together with the just-opened pizza joint Mel’s.

Rodriguez and enterprise companions Jeff Katz and James Kent appear to obviously wish to make a break from the previous and associations with Batali. Katz went as far as to submit a video on Instagram within the spring of 2021 that confirmed a lit bundle of sage — stated to cleanse damaging vitality from an area — and numerous high-quality eating trappings, like white tablecloths and silver domes, being packed up on the previous Del Posto.

“Burn that f–king sage and tear the roof off that mom,” a commenter on the submit stated.

It’s been almost 5 years since Mario Batali was introduced down by accusations of sexual assault and harassment from greater than a dozen ladies.
Michael Loccisano

“It is a new period,” stated Youjin Jung, the manager chef at Babbo. “The restaurant had been below huge shadows. Let’s name it ‘orange shadow with a ponytail.’”

It’s been almost 5 years since Mario Batali was introduced down by accusations of sexual assault and harassment from greater than a dozen ladies. Within the wake of the allegations — and what many within the meals world noticed because the revelation of a longstanding open secret about Batali’s habits — the superstar chef was swiftly fired from the ABC gab fest “The Chew.” In 2019, Batali was totally divested from each Eataly and all of his former eating places, an eatery empire with companion Joe Bastianich that included lots of the metropolis’s most iconic and beloved spots, akin to Babbo, Lupa and Casa Mono. Now, as town and its eating places come again to life post-Covid, the influence of Batali and his cancellation continues to be being reckoned with. A brand new era of star cooks, akin to Rodriguez, Lilia’s Missy Robbins, and Carbone’s Mario Carbone and Wealthy Torrisi are on the rise, serving excellent plates of pasta to celebrities like Dua Lipa, Pete Davidson and Kim Kardashian. However some nonetheless starvation for the previous days of Mario stomping round Babbo in his trademark orange, blasting rock tunes with out care.

There, and at different former Batali spots that stay open akin to Casa Mono and Eataly, the reservation books are almost as full as they as soon as have been. The shadow is gone, however the legend stays.

On a latest night time at Lupa within the West Village, a buyer on the bar requested “Is that this Mario Batali’s restaurant?” solely to be shut down bluntly with a “no” by a bartender. It’s a Bastianich institution now, and a few staff say that they miss the creativity and food-focus that Batali, regardless of his faults, dropped at the place.

“[Bastianich is] all enterprise when he comes right here. He doesn’t actually say a lot. Some individuals take it personally. He’s type of chilly,” stated one worker.

Joe Bastianich
Joe Bastianich, onetime enterprise companion to Mario Batali and decide on TV’s “MasterChef.”
FOX Picture Assortment through Getty I

And, whereas busy, Lupa actually isn’t as scorching because it as soon as was. Throughout the road, the notoriously hard-to-get-into Carbone sends prospects it might’t accommodate there as a comfort prize.

At Casa Mono close to Union Sq., issues are additionally going pretty properly, regardless of a tough few months proper after the Batali allegations got here out.

Casa Mono
Casa Mono restaurant close to Union Sq..
NY Publish Brian Zak

“We retained the Michelin star by all of it. The standard stayed the identical. The title brings good expertise to the door, nevertheless it’s actually the workforce – that drives it,” a former Casa Mono worker advised The Publish. They went on to notice that the Spanish restaurant, which is co-owned by chef Andy Nusser, had at all times been a bit separate from Batali’s Italian joints downtown, and as such was extra insulated from all of the allegations towards him. “Everybody knew that Casa Mono could be protected.” However, Nusser and former Casa Mono chef Anthony Sasso did must shelf their totally accomplished, by no means printed cookbook within the wake of the scandal.

Different insiders stated that the principle expertise within the Batali empire was at all times the lesser identified cooks on the road.

“Mario hadn’t cooked in years. He was the man that went on ‘The Chew’ and Bastianich was the one who dealt with the operations,” James Mallios, a New York Metropolis-based restaurateur and proprietor of Juniper restaurant in Lengthy Island who has employed many former Batali staff, stated.

However, on the intimate Italian Babbo, Batali’s absence has been extra deeply felt.

“It was packed. You wouldn’t see an empty seat on the bar with out any individual ready for somebody to sit down down. You used to see Kate Hudson – loads of celebrities,” Vicki Hersh, 42, a Wall Avenue dealer who has been a patron of Babbo religiously for 15 years, usually wining and eating shoppers there. “It was the toughest restaurant to get in for a protracted, very long time,” she stated. Now, it’s merely busy.

Babbo staff, like these at Lupa, additionally complained a couple of extra uptight vibe below Bastianich, who declined to be interviewed for this text.

“Joe is a enterprise man. He would work extra intently with the company workforce,” the worker stated. With out Batali, there’s not a boss who cares about delicacies in the identical approach. The worker contradicted experiences that Mario wasn’t within the kitchen all that a lot.

Exterior shot of Babbo restaurant within the West Village.
Getty Photographs

“Mario spent far more time in his eating places than individuals understood … He was one of many final real meals stars so far as I’m involved. You take a look at Jamie Oliver and Rachel Ray – Mario simply so occurred to have an incredible character and an incredible acumen for Italian meals. He made unbelievable meals. That’s what propelled him into superstar standing, not the opposite approach round.” 

Many famous that Batali’s spots have been a coaching floor for a whole era of NYC cooks.

“I do know so many gifted individuals who got here out of that group – and a few of my greatest mates – and my spouse,” stated chef Wade Moises, who labored at Babbo and headed Lupa in 2001 and moved on to Eataly from 2011 to 2012, stated. He’s now the co-owner of LA Vita Italian Specialties, a sandwich and pasta store in New Jersey.

However, he stated, there’s additionally concern about endlessly being related to Mario.

“After I went to open a restaurant in Arizona, all individuals needed to deal with was the truth that I labored for Mario. I didn’t notice that was going to be the story. And also you’re type of like, is that going to be my complete fame?” Moises stated.

Not all the Batali eating places survived the allegations and went on to thrive with out him. As soon as-popular pizza spot Otto shuttered, as did Midtown seafood emporium Esca and La Sirena on the Maritime Lodge. Batali himself has gone darkish, and didn’t reply to request to talk for this text

In 2019, a tipster observed an replace to Batali’s private Web page, that featured a brand new picture of the chef in a vest, sans signature fleece, standing in a kitchen and the cliffhanger “Coming Quickly,” scrolled throughout. When the Web page Eater contacted a rep for Batali, they known as it a mistake and the phrases have been faraway from the location. This adopted a 2018 remark Batali made to New York journal wherein he stated “I’m not going to dwell my life in public anymore.” (After the preliminary allegations, Batali issued an apology in his e-mail e-newsletter saying “My habits was fallacious and there aren’t any excuses. I take full accountability.”)

The obvious place to see him now’s in courtroom. Batali nonetheless faces indecent-assault raps from a 2017 incident in Boston for allegedly groping and kissing a lady at a restaurant. He pleaded not guilty and the continued case for the trial will happen April 11 in Boston. 

Mario Batali
Mario Batali, above, will seem in courtroom in Boston this April.
William Farrington

The NYPD, in the meantime, closed its investigation of the sexual assault allegations made towards Batali in 2019 with out urgent any fees. In 2021, Batali and Bastianich agreed to pay $600,000 to be break up amongst a minimum of 20 employees who claimed they suffered office harassment or discrimination, as a part of a settlement, as The Publish beforehand reported.

Insiders say it’s uncertain he might open one other place, even when needed to.

“Often in situations like these you pull out of the highlight, you do some rehabilitation and attempt to reenter society. He’s accomplished the ghosting a part of it, however are individuals going to place down cash [to back any of his potential new projects]? I can’t consider anybody that might. What could be the upside to individuals partnering? However then once more, his locations are nonetheless busy,” Mallios stated.

However, some say Batali’s absence continues to be keenly felt, regardless of youthful cooks cooking nice Italian meals.

“I believe that Del Posto was top-of-the-line Italian eating places, and I miss it. We miss these eating places. I miss every thing. The ambiance, the service, the sensible meals. I had top-of-the-line meals there,” Stephen Starr, the famed restaurateur behind behind Le Coucou, Pastis and Buddakan. “The true query is, who’s the subsequent huge Italian star chef? There’s nobody who seems to be filling these sneakers.”

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