Batali vs bankers in dust-up over "Hitler" remarks
November 10th, 2011
11:45 AM ET
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Celebrity chef Mario Batali’s recent remarks comparing bankers to “Stalin or Hitler and the evil guys” have landed him in hot pappardelle with the clientele of some of his high-end restaurants.

While participating on a Time Magazine Person of the Year panel along with NBC anchor Brian Williams, comedian Seth Meyers and taxpayer advocate Grover Norquist, Batali was asked by the moderator, Time's managing editor Richard Stengel who he would choose for that distinction.

After citing his admiration for Steve Jobs and food activist Michael Pollan, Batali went on to condemn the banking industry for what he characterized as their negative effect on a global scale saying, "So the ways the bankers have kind of toppled the way money is distributed and taken most of it into their hands is as good as Stalin or Hitler and the evil guys. They’re not heroes, they're just people that had a really huge effect on the way the world is operating."

Though Batali later took to his Twitter account to clarify, writing in two consecutive Tweets, "To remove any ambiguity about my appearance at yesterday’s Time Person of the Year panel, I want to apologize for my remarks." and "It was never my intention to equate our banking industry with Hitler and Stalin, two of the most evil, brutal dictators in modern history," word had already spread like a grease fire throughout the banking industry.

Restaurant gossip site Eater posted a memo that had reportedly been circulated widely throughout trading circles, saying, "Celebrity Chef Mario Batali Says Bankers As Bad As Hitler, Stalin ... a list of his restaurants *B&B Ristorante *Osteria Mozza *Babbo *OTTO *Bar Jamon *Pizzeria Mozza *Carnevino Italian Steakhouse *Tarry Lodge *Casa Mono *Tarry Market *Del Posto *Mozza2Go *Esca *Manzo *Lupa Cancel all reservations.....pass the word." and bankers seem to have taken heed, also bringing their wrath to Twitter in the form of the hashtag #bataligate.

Bloomberg News restaurant critic Ryan Sutton jumped into the fray, tweeting accounts of contacts he'd had with outraged members of the finance world saying, "UBS friend: 'most bankers/brokers have called to cancel resies at Babbo/Del Posto en masse. . . he is going to feel the boycott.'"

Sutton also posted "Credit derivatives trader calls me: 'I spent $4,000 on a white truffle dinner on Monday at Babbo. This is sh!tty. I feel used. #bataligate'" and "Morgan Stanley Trader messages me on Batali: 'Good luck with your $300 white truffle tasting menu among the 99% #bataligate.'"

While bankers and traders aired their ire on Twitter, people in other sectors of the economy relished the chance to finally score one of the notoriously difficult reservations at Batali's higher-end New York City restaurants, which include Del Posto, Esca and his flagship Babbo. Grub Street reported that tables were scarce at most of Batali's Manhattan outposts on the night of the initial boycott.

And as always, Twitter had a few requests on the menu. @gattogrigio925 wrote, "So... #bataligate? Hmmm...maybe @Mariobatali could do some reduced-priced 'menus for the 99%'? #hint." Globe and Mail editor Sarah Lilleyman chimed in, "Best thing about #bataligate = bankers call for Babbo boycott, everyone else celebrates the chance to get a table there."

Twitterer @JonU235 also wanted to know, "Which #bataligate restaurant has a decent meal for around $10? That's my fine dining budget right now. Thanks to bankers."

While the current pasta tasting menu at Babbo costs $69 a person, traditional menu $75, white truffle $300 and a five or seven course set menu at Del Posto are $115 and $145 respectively, a plate of pasta at his pizzeria Otto will set a hungry 99 Percenter back just ten bucks. (White truffles not included.)

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Filed under: Celebrity Chefs • Mario Batali • News

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. calvin morris

    Just shows how stupid we Americans have become. Who in the hell really cares about what one
    american has to say about our banking system. We talk about the government messing with our rights, then we turn around and deny an American his right to free speech. Wake up America, By the way,if it were not for the Jew thing, Hitler might have gone down in history as a great leader. That war was one that we could have lost. Thank god we had people who put their lives on the line so we could have the right to call banks cold, and uncaring, no matter what our position in life is. Instead of wasting your time on stupid stuff like this, get out your check book, and send some dough to the USO.

    November 11, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  2. Jim

    You know... Batali did apologize. If you look at all the charity work over the years... he's given a lot back to places like the Robin Hood Foundation, E Lagasse's Foundadiot, Pediatric AIDS and City Harvest. It seems it should seem only natural that he should care about the disparity on wealth in this country. I don't see many people that are bankers or people like the Koch brothers actually putting themselve in that position unless there's a way to not actually aid themselves. What he said is an overstatement... but he's far from the real villian...

    November 10, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
  3. Truth

    Well, I have to wonder if he will be fired, just like HWjr was for making a similar statement. Let's hope there is some form of consistency here.

    November 10, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  4. Surfer

    I live in Las Vegas. I know there is at least one of Batali's restaurants, maybe more, down on the strip. Let me repeat: 'I live in Las Vegas.' Most locals don't go to the strip unless they're going for a certain reason (i.e. show, preformance, etc.). In fact, unless you're really bored or want to take a slow half mile ride for the next forty five minutes, most people avoid the Strip.
    In any case, I have researched several of the 'name brand' restaurants and find that I can't afford them. So who did he think he would piss off by blurting out the truth? The only people who can afford to go there are members of the "1%". Honest guy but poor politician - and that's a compliment. Drop your prices so the rest of us can go there once in a while. You'll probably have more mouths than you can fill.

    November 10, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  5. Stacyy

    Haven't been, but would depending on our finances and the occasion. The sentence people are hot & bothered over is followed by, "They’re not heroes, they're just people that had a really huge effect on the way the world is operating." I can see where people would focus on his first sentence, ignore his second and fire up a media storm over it.

    November 10, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  6. Mama Mia!

    Not in NYC, but even if I were, there's no way I could throw down $300 for 1 meal. Welcome to the 99% Batali

    November 10, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
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