A Guide to Mario Batali Restaurants

By :  PigTrip     Dec 21, 2015
A Guide to Mario Batali Restaurants
Most of us are familiar with Mario Batali for his dozen books, his distinctive wardrobe—shorts, vest, orange clogs—and appearances on The Chew, morning talk shows and his many cooking shows on The Food Network. If Batali’s vast empire of eateries is a little less familiar, we’ll bring you up to speed with this quick run-down.

Pó (1993)

This is no longer a Batali restaurant, but this diminutive West Village Italian is the one that put him on the culinary map and the one he owned while filming his first TV series Molto Mario. Partner Steve Crane bought out Batali’s share when he left to open Babbo. Batali’s recipes are rumored to still be in use and reviews of the gourmet-homestyle hybrid remain very positive.

Babbo (1998)

Batali’s flagship restaurant is the first in his partnership with Joe Bastianich, who oversees the wine program hailed as one of the finest in New York City. The two-level space is as energetic as Batali’s gutsy, sophisticated Italian fare that promotes unusual cuts of meat and bold pastas. Our favorite of the latter is the “love letters”: ravioli shaped like a postage stamp, filled with spicy lamb sausage and mint. Specials focus on a different region of Italy each month. Desserts and cheeses get proper attention. Also available are traditional and pasta tasting menus with optional wine pairings. After all these years, it’s still destination dining.

Lupa (1999)

Riding the wave of Babbo’s success, Lupa opened to rave reviews for the casual Roman trattoria menu by founding chef Mark Ladner (who’s since moved on to sister restaurant Del Posto). Lupa has become known as that humble, crowded Batali joint in Greenwich Village with a wine list exceeding expectation, prices below expectation and comfort food that’s right on the money. For best results, stick with the outstanding house-made salumi and pastas that lean toward al dente. Roman and pasta tasting menus allow easy surveying.

Esca (2000)

Hell’s Kitchen fish-centric Esca—Italian for “bait”—is the briny playground of James Beard award-winning chef Dave Pasternack, dubbed by Frank Bruni as the “fish whisperer” in a glowing New York Times review. The understated yet elegant dining room is symbolic of the simple, pristine ingredients showcased in the more than two dozen crudo selections. These are available individually and in the highly recommended crudo tasting menu (a supplement to the regular tasting menu). Every section is deep, with the dishes changing constantly based on what’s freshest at the moment from local suppliers.

Otto (2003)

This mashup of an Italian enoteca and a busy Italian train station is the one with the robust pizzas cooked on a griddle and served in the dining room. It’s the one that’s a destination for wines, cheeses, and house-cured meats enjoyed at hightop tables in the enoteca. And it’s the one with the house-made gelati, most notoriously the olive oil. Another location opened in Las Vegas.

Bar Jamón (2004)

At this tiny communal tapas bar named after hams sliced see-through thin, Batali trades an Italian accent for a Spanish one, but the results are just as successful. For the menu, look into the mirror behind the bar, where the nightly offerings are scribbled. Think salty meats and cheeses with accompaniments tailor made to further accompanying an adult beverage.

Casa Mono (2004)

Bar Jamón’s larger, more mature sibling is also its neighbor. The two share a single wine list, and the list of tapas is similar, but Casa Mono lures carnivores with its menu of “Whole Organic Animals” (lamb, pig, goat, rabbit) butchered in-house.

Del Posto (2005)

What Batali and Bastianich call their “richest and most refined creation” is an elegant, 2-story restaurant whose high ceilings, marble columns, dramatic staircase and ornate décor give it a palatial feel best suited to occasion dining. Executive chef Mark Ladner’s Italian cuisine is similar to but more stylized than at Babbo. The menu deftly balancing meat, seafood and vegetables is best navigated via the five course prix fixe that lets you choose your own antipasto, segundo and dolce, with two pastas shared by the table. For the more adventurous, the Captain’s menu is an eight course tasting selected by the kitchen. And there’s an especially adventurous eight course vegan tasting menu. Wine, as expected, are a strength. The New York Times awarded it four stars—the first Italian restaurant to receivethat many in 36 years.

B&B Ristorante (Las Vegas) (2007)

Batali and Bastianich took on Las Vegas with a restaurant in the Venetian Hotel and Casino that early reviews compared favorably to Del Posto. It has all of the hallmarks: deep menu, attentively conceptualized pastas, use of unfamiliar animal parts, marvelous wine list, traditional and pasta tasting menus, and high end steaks such as the dry aged ribeye for two.

Carnevino (Las Vegas) (2008)

The name itself tells you all you need to know about the Batali-Bastianich interpretation of the classic steak house: carne (meat) and vino (wine). They brought in another big name—veteran steakhouse/barbecue meat maven Adam Perry Lang—to oversee the menu and sourcing of high end meats. Look for organic ingredients, dry aging and Italian seasonings throughout the deep roster that includes Colorado lamb chops, four varied veal options, four pork options (three chops and an osso bucco) and a 6-deep steak selection headed by a dry aged bone-in ribeye and a Florentine style porterhouse. Oh, and if you’re looking for either more variety or less meat, the four seafood options, fourteen pastas and fourteen sides will shut your mouth while filling it at the same time.

Pizzeria Mozza (Los Angeles) (2007)

The first of Batali’s collaborations with James Beard award-winning chef Nancy Silverton (for this restaurant) wasn’t the one he had in mind. Story has it that a few years earlier, Batali offered the baking guru a job overseeing the bread and pastry program at Del Posto. Instead, they opened this pizza joint in Los Angeles, where bruschette and Panini are additionally showcased. Daily specials include proteins cooked in the wood burning oven: ribs, brisket, snapper and chicken. Meatballs al forno, a crowd obsession, are an everyday event. There’s a second location in Newport Beach.

Osteria Mozza (Los Angeles) (2007)

Next door to Pizzeria Mozza is Osteria Mozza, where Nancy Silverton presides over the cheese: fresh imported mozzarella, ricotta and cream-filled burrata. A deeper-than-usual pasta repertoire covers every shape possible, while entrées range from rabbit to duck to lamb to veal to beef to pork to quail to three different fish dishes. An amaro bar menu offers a prix fixe three course dinner with choices from the mozzarella, pasta and dessert sections. There’s a second outpost in Singapore.

Tarry Lodge (Port Chester NY) (2008)

Housed near the Connecticut border in a century-old former speakeasy, Tarry Lodge combines elements from several Batali-Bastianich restaurants into a casual trattoria that’s a virtual greatest hits, played as a medley. The group’s first foray into suburbia is run by chef Andy Nusser, who worked with Batali at Pó and opened Babbo and Casa Mono. Antipasti balance meat and seafood, a half dozen each. Mains include all the usual suspects. There are several pizzas and extra attention is paid, as always, to the pastas. They even do brunch. Additional locations have surfaced in Westport CT and New Haven CT.

Eataly (2010)

The world’s largest artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace is this 50,000 square-foot space bound by 23rd Street, 24th Street and Fifth Avenue. Chocolates? Check. Gelato? Check. Bakery? Check. Cheeses? Check. Wines? Beer hall? Double check. Produce, meats, fish? Check, check check. Mario Batali calls it a “grocery store with tasting rooms.” There’s also a restaurant: Manzo, presenting nose-to-tail dining on meats from rockstar meat purveyor Pat LaFrieda. Three years later, Batali and Bastianich opened a larger Eataly in Chicago. Another one in Boston is on the way.

B&B Burger and Beer (Las Vegas) (2013)

In many ways Las Vegas is the most American of cities, so it makes sense that Batali and Bastianich chose it—at the Venetian Hotel and Casino—to open their first joint focusing on the most American of foods: the hamburger. The meat is Prime Black Angus, ground daily; preparations range from fast food to gourmet. But it wouldn’t be a Batali-Bastianich enterprise without a few extras: a snacks section (with items like “pork parts” and “unfried mozzarella”), hero sandwiches (some Italian, some not), spiked nutella milkshakes, a respectable beer list and wines selected especially for burger pairing.

Chi Spacca (Los Angeles) (2013)

Batali and Bastianich go Hollywood at this boutique Italian meatery, but mainly as partners. The intimate space on Melrose Avenue under the stewardship of owner Nancy Silverton and chef Chad Colby boasts a constantly changing salumi menu and interesting macelleria selections such as the beef & bone marrow pie, a tomahawk pork chop, a 42-ounce dry aged bone-in ribeye and an eye-popping (and wallet popping) 50-ounce Bisteca Fiorentina. Interestingly, not a single pasta graces the menu. Many of the wines carry the Bastianich label.

Babbo Pizzeria (Boston) (2015)

Batali’s expansion into South Boston near the waterfront combined the concept of one restaurant (Otto) with the name of another (Babbo), to avoid being confused with an existing pizzeria named Otto that came to Boston by way of Portland ME. Cured meats, cheeses and gelati all share the stage.