Barbara Lynch on Texts From Batali, Italian Lobster Rolls, and Eataly Boston

The collaboration started with a secret meeting at the ICA.

Seafood photo by Lloyd Mallison for 'An Early Look Inside Eataly Boston' / Barbara Lynch photo provided

Seafood photo by Lloyd Mallison for ‘An Early Look Inside Eataly Boston‘ / Barbara Lynch photo provided

Even Mario Batali needs help developing restaurants sometimes. The orange Crocs-wearing celebrity chef enlisted Barbara Lynch as Eataly Boston’s resident seafood expert well before he and other partners broke ground on the Italian food complex set to open at the Prudential Center next week.

Lynch, the restaurateur behind the South End’s B&G Oysters, Fort Point’s Sportello, and other award-winning Barbara Lynch Gruppo restaurants, is overseeing Eataly’s Il Pesce concept. Boston caught up with the chef to learn more about her role ahead of the November 29 opening.

On how the collaboration came about: 

“Mario texted me two years ago and said hey, is this your real phone number? And I was like, yeah. He said he was coming to Boston, and can we talk about Eataly opening up. I said sure. He said, where can we meet, and I said the ICA. He said, I’m sorry, is that code word for something? What is the ICA? And I said, my secret meeting spot. It’s called the Institute of Contemporary Art, and that’s where I hide out.  He said great, I’ll meet you there.

We met in late April. He said, we’re going to open Eataly in Boston and we want you for our pesce restaurant. He was like, you’ve got to come up with some Italian sort of lobster roll kind of thing. And I said alright, sure. I can do it. And then we shook hands. A couple of months later, I was like, I don’t know if he was for real or not, but maybe we should get in touch, and we did.”

Why she signed on: 

“I love Mario and I love Italian food. I love the simplicity and the realness of it. I fell in love with Eataly in Turino way back when it first opened.”

Il Pesce vs. B&G Oysters: 

“They’re completely different. B&G is very New England. This is New England with an Italian twist. B&G is what I grew up with. It’s very nostalgic with the fried clams and New England chowder. Italians really don’t eat a lobster roll. But they’ll eat a beautiful lobster salad with fennel, a touch of lemon, lemon zest, and beautiful olive oil. Oyster stew is not going to be as heavy as we would do at B&G with cream and all of that.”

Menu development: 

“There’s a salmon dish [at Il Pesce] with kale, and of course I was thinking chorizo. They [Eataly developers] said, can we use a salami that we make? I said, absolutely. And it was so good. It’s much better and it doesn’t overpower the salmon. We’re also doing a cod dish with braised roasted fennel and these amazing olives.”


“We want to deal with bycatch, what is normally thrown out.  Usually I hate mackerel, oily fish. But we had a mackerel crudo yesterday that was amazing.”

Eataly Boston, 800 Boylston St., Back Bay, Boston, 617-236-3100,