Mario Batali is beloved in the United States and around the world. Known for simple Italian food with exquisite taste, he is also a powerhouse entrepreneur and family man. A chef who swears by Parmigiano Reggiano and the importance of a Nespresso machine, he recently made time to chat with JBD. Revealing the perfect dining companion and his ideal last meal, Mario Batali dishes it out.
What will never go out of style?
Orange Crocs. Or so I hope.
Orange is the color of the season. What else is a must-have in your wardrobe?
I favor cargo shorts and a vest. Almost year-round.
When you are not cooking, you are…?
With my wife and sons. Preferably either in Columbia County or on Lake Michigan.
What captivated you as a child?
I grew up in Seattle but my family moved to Spain while I was in high school. I was taken by the culture of the Iberian Peninsula and of Italy. We were able to travel throughout Europe.
What was your favorite meal as a child?
Every holiday my grandma made ravioli filled with calf’s brain, Swiss chard and ricotta. In my mind, it’s still the perfect pasta.
What do you eat for breakfast?
I start my day with a macchiato and eat a little bit while we film at The Chew. I have some of the best breakfast companions around.
A necessary kitchen tool?
I can’t overstate the importance of my Nespresso machine.
You have three meals to eat in New York City – where do you go and what do you eat?
Spaghetti cacio e pepe is often overlooked because of its simplicity but you can’t do much better than perfectly al dente pasta with cheese and freshly cracked black pepper.
Any recommendations for a homemade pasta sauce and/or an off-the-shelf pasta to purchase?
For sauce I love arrabbiata; with any Mario Batali dry pasta!!
Tell us the future! Which city is about to blow us all out of the garden with their cuisine?
We just opened our second restaurant in Hong Kong and it’s one of the most exciting food cities I’ve encountered in a long time.
Do you grow your own food at home?
Our New York City apartment is devoid of greenery but during our summers on Lake Michigan, we have a small but serious herb garden.
Favorite vacation spot and why?
The stillness of Lake Michigan is the perfect antidote to our busy life in New York.
I am traveling to Italy later this year…what is one place you believe everyone should visit to dine?
You can’t go wrong with any small trattoria in Rome or Bologna, but lunch at L’Asino d’Oro is hard to beat.
Do you have a cocktail that trumps most meals?
There’s little more perfect than an Aperol spritz.
If you could dine with anyone (who you haven’t dined with before) who would it be and why?
President Clinton is the perfect dinner companion.
Tell us about the Mario Batali Foundation. Why did you start it? What are the goals for 2012/2013?
I started the Mario Batali Foundation in 2008 in order to focus my charitable work on children, specifically children’s hunger relief, disease research and literacy guarantee. Our most exciting recent work is with an organization called Books for Kids with whom we partner to design, build, and stock libraries in schools throughout NYC. Over the summer, we opened a location in Chelsea and just last week we opened another on the Upper West Side.
Go-to blogs and magazines?
Cheeseburger or cheesecake?
Cheese on its own. If I get to choose, Parmigiano Reggiano, the undisputed king of cheese.
Favorite episode, to date, of your time on ABC’s The Chew?
The season two premiere was our best show yet. It’s good to be back!
Where would you eat – and what would you eat – if it were your known last meal?
A single piece of fish or crustacean prepared by each Ferran Adriá, Eric Ripert, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Alain Ducasse, Daniel Boulud, Massimo Bottura, Mark Ladner, José Andrés and Dave Pasternack each paired with wines from Bourgogne.