The fallout from sexual misconduct allegations against chef and restaurateur Mario Batali, first reported by Eater NY in December 2017, has been swift.
Within that first report, Batali did not deny the allegations, saying that they “match up” with his behavior, and he announced that he’d be stepping away from day-to-day operations of his businesses. ABC’s The Chew, a show he’d been co-hosting since 2011, also asked him to step away while the network reviewed the allegations. At the time, a Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group spokesperson said that although Batali was stepping away from operations, he remained an owner of his individual restaurants at the time, but the group was enlisting an independent, outside corporate investigations firm to assist in staffers who wished to make claims.
In the months that followed, B&B Hospitality Group began taking steps to rebrand, restructure, and scrub Batali from the company; meanwhile, he has begun divesting from it as well. After suspending and then firing Batali from The Chew, ABC eventually cancelled the show. And now the New York Police Department is investigating Batali with regards to some of the allegations against him. Days after the investigation came to light, B&B Hospitality Group told employees at three Batali restaurants in Vegas that those restaurants would close.
Here in Boston, the two B&B venues, Babbo and Eataly, have stayed mostly out of the spotlight of the scandal; it’s felt like business as usual, aside from the disappearance of Batali’s name and face on products throughout Eataly. But in a new report by Eater NY describing how even fans weren’t safe from Batali’s alleged behavior, a former fan of Batali makes allegations of an incident she says occurred at Eataly neighbor Towne Stove and Spirits:
In April of last year, [Natali] Tene said, Batali allegedly groped her at Towne Stove and Spirits, a Boston bar next to the city’s Eataly. She claims that Batali, who seemed intoxicated, suggested they take selfies together, then rubbed her breasts, grabbed her backside, put his hands between her legs, and kept squeezing her face into his as he kissed her. The resulting photos, which she provided to Eater, were “shockingly uncomfortable,” she said. A friend who was there with her said he witnessed Batali being “handsy.”
“I was just in total disbelief when he touched me like that, I couldn’t believe it when it was happening,” Tene said. “In the moment it was just so crazy, it was humiliating. The more I thought about it later, the angrier I got. But I thought maybe I was alone, maybe it was an isolated incident. When I saw the news, I had this feeling like, ‘Yes, he’s being exposed as a creep’ — but also sadness and lots of anger that he got away with this behavior for so long.”
Tene also alleged to Eater NY that Batali told her he was in town visiting Eataly and asked if she would join him at his hotel. “At the time, it was all so shocking, it just felt crazy, I just wanted it to be over,” she told Eater NY. “But I just kept getting angrier about it — why would you humiliate a fan? I feel heartbroken for these other women, I feel disgust. I feel like what he did to me wasn’t one drunken mistake; I feel like he was a predator.”
As Eater NY notes, B&B Hospitality Group will officially finalize Batali’s divestment from the company by July 1, and the group says that he has not been involved since December.