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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Interview with Mario Batali

media_marioMario Batali — the chef who has done more to change the look and feel of Italian cooking in this country than anyone in 20 years — will be coming to Atlanta this weekend. Not to scout out a place to open a restaurant, alas, but to demonstrate recipes from his new cookbook, “Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking” (Ecco, $29.99), at the Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show at the Cobb Galleria Centre. Batali and his partners run 14 restaurants in New York (his home base), Las Vegas and Los Angeles, and are gearing up to open two more in a Singapore casino. He has authored several cookbooks and is a regular performer on the Food Network program “Iron Chef America.”

We spoke on the phone briefly:

Q: What are you planning to demonstrate?

A: Really this book is all about the simple and predominantly vegetable-based foods of the Italian daily table. So I’m planning to make a dish of cavolo nero (Tuscan kale) with ricotta thinned with olive oil and water — it’s like a thin soup. And I’m going to show how to make pizza at home. You can make something light, crisp and delicious in a regular oven.

Q: What do fans at these kinds of events usually ask you?

A: Most questions revolve around the veracity of “Iron Chef.” Is there really a secret ingredient? Do you really never lose? That’s where they think I live.

Q: When you go out for inexpensive ethnic food in New York, do you default to Latin or Asian?

A: Generally Asian if I can. There are great dumplings, five for a buck, in Chinatown. And if I want to go out to Flushing, Queens, there are 17 different kinds of Chinese food. The Number 7 train (that travels from Manhattan through Queens) is a wealth of fascination and deliciousness. Then again, nothing beats a legitimate taco.

Q: Where is New York restaurant culture going?

A: The restaurants have gotten so much smaller. I love this place Porchetta that has only three seats. And that’s all they serve: porchetta (roast pork), either a plate or a sandwich. It’s not the end of fine dining, but things are a lot more casual. It’s a great time to be in New York.

Q: So many chefs are making their own salumi now  — something your father, Armandino Batali, was doing long before it was trendy. Do you think it’s oversaturated?

A. No. As long as it’s good and healthy, it can’t be too saturated. I love that people have learned how to do it. There’s a real satisfaction for a chef in doing things that people can’t do at home. That’s what I want when I go out. I don’t want a piece of nicely grilled tuna with a little salsa verde. I want a choucroute garni or a lasagna. Something that takes a lot of effort to make.

Q: Ever been to Atlanta?

A: I have, and loved it. Even that yuppie part. Buckhead?

Q: Ever been to the Clermont Lounge?

A: No, what’s that?

(Ten minutes later.)

Q: Do you stay in touch with your former employee Bruce Logue, now chef at La Pietra Cucina in Atlanta?

A: I love Bruce. He’s a very talented guy, and very thoughtful. I love hanging out with him.

Q: You going to eat there?

A: No, I’m flying back that night. It’s my father in law’s birthday.

Q: What are you doing for him?

A: I’m cooking at home. Spaghetti with ramps, leg of lamb and crème brûlée. His favorite dishes.

The Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show takes place Saturday, May 1 and Sunday, May 2, at Cobb Galleria Centre. For more information, go to www.metrocooking.com

22 comments Add your comment

RK

April 27th, 2010
12:49 pm

Batali Rocks…the meals in his NY restaurants out shine almost every where else I eat when visiting.

paul deena

April 27th, 2010
2:01 pm

why hasn’t he been on iron chef in forever?

ATL4Real

April 27th, 2010
2:02 pm

I would love to run into him at the Clermont Lounge!

Reds

April 27th, 2010
2:32 pm

There’s just something about another red-headed italian that makes me giggle! :) <3 Mario!

TW

April 27th, 2010
2:33 pm

Ate at Babbo two weeks ago. Excellent meal.

John Kessler

April 27th, 2010
2:40 pm

You know what else? Dude is smart…

Blue Chunkes

April 27th, 2010
2:43 pm

He’s a really good guy, too. A day after 911, he contacted all the bar and restaurant owners in lower Manhattan who couldn’t open for the time being, and got them to bring all their perishable foods to one of his restaurants a few blocks from Ground Zero where he and his staff cooked for weeks and gave away meals to the rescue workers.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by andrea weigl, John Kessler. John Kessler said: Interview with Mario Batali http://bit.ly/aLeQnq [...]

MB

April 27th, 2010
3:16 pm

Thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Babbo and regularly cook from “Molto Italiano”…oooh, that Black Rooster Pork! And if you’re ever in Seattle, do yourself a favor and visit his father’s place, Salumi. Probably the best cured meats I’ve ever tasted, and easily one of my favorite sandwiches.

Haven’t made it to La Pietra Cucina yet, but have heard raves about the place. Looking forward to it.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Erickson, launchatlanta, Andy Dinsmore, MCBrutz, Reeds Cooking and others. Reeds Cooking said: #Cooking Interview with Mario Batali: Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) Not to scout out a place to open a resta… http://bit.ly/bSunKN [...]

uberVU - social comments

April 27th, 2010
3:36 pm

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by fifthgrouper: @jdkess interviews America’s favorite red-headed, orange-Croc-wearing, Italian Chef, Mario Batali http://shar.es/m528T…

Lisa

April 27th, 2010
3:48 pm

the dinner we had at Del Posto last April still lives in my memory as one of the best I have ever had and that includes some restaurants in Italy too.

Steven A.

April 27th, 2010
4:35 pm

Battali and Emeril Lagasse are similar to me in that they are guys that have made their reputations with somewhat ridiculous, broad public personae, but when you get them off the stage, they are very genuine, smart, introspective, self-aware people. So even though the way they are portrayed on TV can be grating (no pun intended), I cut them a break because I know they have both the culinary cred and the humanity to back it up. Could probably throw Paula Deen in there as well, but she strikes me as someone who is almost always “on,” so maybe not.

Jim R.

April 27th, 2010
6:58 pm

Spaghetti for Daddy! Spaghetti with RAMPS! Mario, you are a good son. What a great idea! It is ramp season, wonder where to find the recipe. Surely there are more than one ramp fan who would know. Are there any local restaurants serving ramps?

Gail S.

April 27th, 2010
8:43 pm

Re: a question asked by Paul Deena (is that a play on another famous Food Network’s name, or is that your real name???)–that has been on my mind as well, and I can’t find an answer to it, either on the Food Network site or Batali’s site. He is no longer listed as an Iron Chef (watch the lineup @the beginning of the show). But no one explained why. Is he just overworked with all his restaurants (understandable), or are there too many Iron Chefs now (impossible, is my opinion)?

Anyway, if there is an answer out there in cyberspace, Paul Deena and I would like to know–is he permanently off the show (and if so, WHY????) or just taking a hiatus?

top chef fanatic

April 27th, 2010
10:07 pm

john that question rocked about the clermont lounge….thats why i read all of your colums your the nads buddy:) and batali is the most defined chef of italian food by region thats why i was suprised when he didnt know about the clermont lounge , it is the best region for fish and stinky cheese! although i have never been blessed by visiting there either.

Grammar Queen

April 27th, 2010
11:17 pm

And his collection of little measuring cuppy thingys is one of my favorite kitchen tools.

http://www.amazon.com/Mario-Batali-5-Piece-Measuring-PersimmonCopco/dp/B0012RNKKC

kopp

April 28th, 2010
8:58 am

I want to hear the tape with the missing 10 minutes…

Amanda

April 28th, 2010
9:22 am

I’m even more excited about seeing him on Sunday now. Great job asking him a question in the spirit of “what’s your favorite restaurant” with intelligence.

Holland

April 28th, 2010
10:32 am

jim R…Rathburns had pics of fresh ramps in Facebook a couple days ago…

we are looking forward to seeing Mario on Sunday!

1164mgc

April 28th, 2010
10:49 am

Always love Mario, and I’m looking forward to getting this new book as I’ve found his others a bit intimidating! But good reads:-) I miss him on the Food network.

Chuckles™

April 29th, 2010
6:16 pm

Unfortunately, Mario & Scripps (the folks behind Food Network, Cooking Network, Fine Living and others) have parted ways. They prefer non-chef entertainment hosts (Like Rachel Ray, etc.), and Mario wanted to partner with PBS and projects so they went in different directions.

I get the feeling that Mario may have taken a step back from the media to concentrate on his restaurant business since the economy is so bad for so many in the foodie business. At this rate, there may be less fine dining establishments around then at any time during the Depression.

It’s THAT bad.