Mario Batali has achieved true success as a chef: Now he (or his sous chefs) don’t even have to cook anything for him to make money.
The jovial red-haired fellow opened his 42,500-square-foot Piedmontese retail extravaganza – selling everything from veggies to elegant water pitchers of Italian blown glass — for a preview last night. A sprinkle of celebs and food tv types were there, most surprisingly Van Halen lead singer Sammy Hagar, who bogarted the crudo bar. (“Pleeease pass the striped bass with pistachio, Sammy. Please?”) Batali, surrounded by friends and/or partners Jennifer Rubell and the Bastianich clan talked about the sea change in America. “People are absolutely cooking more than they used to.”
He thanked the yuppies for it all. “Four yuppies get together and make dinner plans and talk about it for a month before because that’s how long ahead they have to call for a reservation and then talk about it for two weeks afterward.” In the lives of many “food is now the center.” (Of their lives? Friendships? Credit-card debt?)
By giving invited guests tastes of the turkey, chicken raviolis and pizza, Eataly hoped to distract revelers from some of the prices (We spotted $3.50 small boxes of mints and a $60 napkin holder. Sterling silver. We hope.) The hearty home-cooking pitch, and grounded bi-lingual vibe, may offset the reality that this is an enormous luxury-food-style operation opening in a recessionary time.
Eataly, a grand central of gastronomy, opens to the public Aug. 31. The space is gorgeous. The veggies and pastries were good. The gelato and pizza quite good. The crudo, when we got some, out of this world. So we forgive Sammy Hagar.