Del Posto, the three-star Italian restaurant co-owned by Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, has a green side—and we’re not talkin’ about all the dough they’re raking in from the $28 spaghetti!
The 2002 Ford Excursion in which Mr. Bastianich commutes every morning from Greenwich, Conn., has a converted diesel engine. He fills up not at Hess, but on 16th Street, where a long hose extending down a ramp from his 10th Avenue restaurant siphons filtered remnants of last night’s dinner—used fryer oils, mostly the rice oil that chef Mark Ladner prefers—into his truck. Mr. Bastianich estimates this saves him between $6,000 and $8,000 a year (the conversion itself cost about $3,000). Best of all, “these other biodiesels always smell like nasty French fries,” he told the Transom. “Mine smells like lightly fried scallops, calamari and sardines.”
Currently, Mr. Bastianich and one of his farmers are the only people filling up at Del Posto; the restaurant had converted a delivery truck, but it recently broke down in an unrelated incident. Mr. Batali, a “city boy,” as Mr. Bastianich put it, takes taxis and drives his moped.
“When it’s really cold out, it’s challenging,” Mr. Bastianich admitted. “Because the fat—it’s white and hard, you’ve seen it in the freezer. That’s basically what you have in your gas tank.” (Up in Greenwich, he plugs his truck into an extension cord at night.)
In addition to Del Posto, Mr. Bastianich co-owns seven other Manhattan restaurants, a wine shop and a soon-to-be 32,000-square-foot artisanal Italian food market called Eataly at 200 Fifth Avenue. He visits up to half a dozen of these enterprises per day, taking calls in his truck in between. He drives, by his own estimation, 100 miles before returning home around midnight.
“There was a moment when you’d get stickers on your car when you were parked in the Village,” he said. “I always get pissed off when I get the stickers: ‘Fuel pig, you’re responsible for the deaths in Iraq!’”
If only the haters knew: Del Posto also uses only recycled toilet and menu paper and shuns bottled water in favor of its own filtered water, according to Elizabeth Meltz, Messrs. Batali and Bastianich’s director of food safety and sustainability. Of course, as Ms. Meltz points out, everything can’t be eco-conscious, otherwise “all winter all you’d serve is pumpkin and apples.” But she is planning to convert a delivery truck in Vegas (where the organization owns three restaurants) to biodiesel, and Mr. Bastianich is considering converting his wife’s car and installing a biodiesel furnace in his house. Then there is his antique Dutch picnic boat—“like a floating piece of furniture”—which he drives in the summer from Chelsea Piers, near Del Posto, to the Tarry Lodge, his restaurant in Port Chester. Starting next year, it too will smell faintly of fritto misto.
Mr. Bastianich is also considering installing another “filling station” up in Port Chester, where he will open a specialty foods store called Tarry Foods in March. Interested Tarry Foods customers would get an allocation of biofuel based on what they spend in the store. “We have so much of it,” said Mr. Bastianich, who pointed out he used to pay someone to cart away Del Posto’s 100 to 150 gallons per week of excess oil, but that it is now taken by Tri-State Biodiesel for free.
“We’re not rampant hippie do-gooders,” he said. “We’re into making money.”