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eGullet Q&A with Mario Batali

Jason Perlow

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Mario Batali believes that olive oil is as precious as gold, that shorts are acceptable attire for every season, and that food, like most things, is best when left to its own simple beauty. To that end, Mario creates simple magic night after night in Manhattan’s West Village and Theater District, dividing his time between his many Italian hotspots, the flagship of which is Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, an upscale dining room where Batali has seamlessly combined traditional principles with intelligent culinary adventure since June 1998.

Ruth Reichl and Frank Bruni at the New York Times hailed Babbo with three stars, and the James Beard Foundation honored it with “The Best New Restaurant of 1998” award. Mario and his team also own a Roman-style trattoria called Lupa (170 Thompson Street) with Jason Denton, as well as a wine shop-just off Union Square- called Italian Wine Merchants, at 108 East 16th Street. Esca, a southern Italian seafood trattoria, opened near the Theater District in April of 2000. In January of 2003, Batali and partner Joseph Bastianich opened another downtown eatery, Otto Enoteca Pizzeria, located just a few blocks from both Babbo and Lupa. In January 2004, Mario and Joseph opened two Barcelona inspired eateries- Casa Mono, a sit down serving classic Catalonian cooking and Bar Jamon, a stand up tapas bar serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Mario, whose original career path had him studying the golden age of Spanish theater at Rutgers University, took his first bite of culinary training at Le Cordon Bleu in London, from which he withdrew almost immediately due to a “lack of interest.” An apprenticeship with London’s legendary Marco Pierre White and three years cooking and learning in the Northern Italian village of Borgo Capanne, population 100, gave him what he needed to return to his native US and plant his orange-clogged foot firmly in the behinds of the checkered tablecloth-Italian restaurant establishment. Among his many culinary accolades, Mario was named “Man of the Year” in the Chef category by GQ Magazine in 1999, and in 2002 won the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: New York City award.

In addition to steering his businesses through their successes, Mario Batali hosts his own programs, “Molto Mario” and “Mario Eats Italy” on the Television Food Network. His new series “Ciao America” premiered in October 2003. He has authored Simple Italian Food (Clarkson Potter 1998), as well as Mario Batali Holiday Food (Clarkson Potter 2000); his third book, The Babbo Cookbook, was released in 2002. Batali lives in New York City with his wife Susi Cahn, of the Coach Dairy Goat Farm, and their two sons, Benno and Leo.

Mario is also one of the recipients of the 2001 D’Artagnan Cervena Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in American, a prestigious lifetime achievement award.

0609603000.01._PI_SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpg Simple Italian Food: Recipes from My Two Villages

0609607758.01._PI_SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpg The Babbo Cookbook

Click Here for the Mario Batali Q&A

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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