Any Italian knows that the truly outstanding chefs aren’t necessarily the ones who attend culinary school and get a formal education in the art and science of taste, flavor and presentation, but the ones who learn the hard way, by cooking day in and day out for their family. Which is why Batali has said his goal is to cook like an Italian grandma.
There’s a lot to read into that aspiration, since it conjures up the warm family table with heaping servings of food from which everyone helped themselves. Food, to Batali, is more than just satisfying the palate, which his creations, from pastas to pizzas to elegantly apportioned seafood, certainly do. “It should be love and joy, music, art, dance and being together that drives us to cook, to eat, and to share,” he has said.
With 15 restaurants, including Babbo — the James Beard Foundation Best New Restaurant in 1999 — there are plenty of opportunities to partake of Batali’s unique zest for life. Always decked out in his signature red ponytail and orange Crocs, Batali began his culinary career as a pie thrower in a New Jersey pizza place. Dropping out of the Cordon Bleu after a few weeks due to boredom, he completed his cooking education in kitchens in London, Italy, and eventually New York. Not shy about his love and knowledge of Italian food, he’s a popular television host, and has recently added food emporium to his list of accomplishments with the opening of Eataly, the largest marketplace for Italian food and wine in New York. And of course, no Batali establishment would be complete without an eatery: Eataly boasts an Italian beer garden on its top floor that is always filled with hungry and happy diners.
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