Mario Batali Has Stepped Aside From His Restaurants After Sexual Misconduct Allegations

The co-owner of two dozen restaurants, including Boston's Babbo Pizzeria, has been accused of inappropriate touching by four women.

Mario Batali

Mario Batali. / Photo by Ken Goodman

After interviews with “dozens” of people in the restaurant industry revealed a pattern of sexual harassment and misconduct by chef Mario Batali, Eater New York reported that he’s the latest celebrity whose inappropriate behavior has cost him his job.

Batali stepped down “for an unspecified amount of time” from the day-to-day operations of the 24 restaurants he co-owns with the Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, which includes Boston’s Babbo Pizzeria e Enoteca. He’s also been asked by ABC to leave the daytime television program he co-hosts, The Chew. Eater’s report cited four anonymous women, and numerous other stories, describing a pattern of inappropriate touching by Batali.

Of the four women, three once worked for Batali, and a fourth met the celebrity chef about 10 years ago when she was in her 20s and a New York City chef. Their accusations include Batali repeatedly grabbing one of the women from behind and holding her tightly against his body; Batali refusing to get out of another woman’s way in a “small, enclosed space,” forcing her to “straddle” him so she could get by him; and instances of Batali groping two of the women’s breasts at parties. These allegations stem from incidents beginning in the 1990s through 2011. Eater New York reports that the first formal complaint against Batali was made to B&B Hospitality in October 2017.

Other interviews revealed Batali’s “lewdness, [and] his crass way of speaking about women.” The chef “has a reputation for inappropriately using sexual innuendo in workplace conversation.” One manager, who was granted anonymity because he still works for Batali, told Eater that Batali treats his kitchen staff well, but has been known to treat women “crudely” when he’s drunk, outside of work.

One of the women who says Batali groped her in the 1990s said, “This wasn’t just some dirty jokes, this was mean, this was about asserting power.” A woman who told Eater that Batali grabbed her in 2011 said, “[For] a long time, I just thought, ‘Well, he didn’t rape me.’ But I remember it vividly, it impacted me, and I feel uneasy recalling it. I just feel this major sense that I’m not the only one. I feel really grateful for the cultural reckoning that’s happening.”

Batali, who is also a minority shareholder in Eataly USA, including its Boston location, told Eater that “much of the behavior described does, in fact, match up with ways I have acted.” He continued:

That behavior was wrong and there are no excuses. I take full responsibility and am deeply sorry for any pain, humiliation or discomfort I have caused to my peers, employees, customers, friends and family.

I have work to do to try to regain the trust of those I have hurt and disappointed. For this reason, I am going to step away from day-to-day operations of my businesses. We built these restaurants so that our guests could have fun and indulge, but I took that too far in my own behavior. I won’t make that mistake again. I want any place I am associated with to feel comfortable and safe for the people who work or dine there.

I know my actions have disappointed many people. The successes I have enjoyed are owned by everyone on my team. The failures are mine alone. To the people who have been at my side during this time—my family, my partners, my employees, my friends, my fans—I am grateful for your support and hopeful that I can regain your respect and trust. I will spend the next period of time trying to do that.

Eataly supports Batali’s decision to step aside, the company said in a statement provided to Boston. “The allegations that surfaced this morning concerning Mario Batali’s behavior towards women were extremely troubling to us,” it reads. “Sexual harassment of any kind towards anyone in any form is unacceptable and Eataly cares deeply about creating a safe and comfortable environment for all our employees and customers, free of harassment, discrimination and retaliation.”

Babbo directed all inquiries to B&B Hospitality Group. “We take these allegations very seriously,” the company’s statement reads, in part. “We pride ourselves on being a workplace for our employees where they can grow and deliver great service with equal opportunity and free from any discrimination. We have strong policies and practices in place that address sexual harassment. We train employees in these policies and we enforce them, up to and including termination.” The company has hired an outside corporate investigations firm called T&M Protection Resources, LLC, to follow up on any potential subsequent accusations.

Batali was reportedly eyeing the Boston Waterfront for a new, ceviche restaurant and raw bar from Batali & Bastianich Hospitality. Boston has reached out to the group’s head of communication for an update there.