Batali and Mama Lidia, High on Fifth

A beshorted Mario Batali, purple socks tucked into orange Crocs, barreled toward a makeshift podium in a corner of Birreria, the new Eataly brewpub 15 stories above the Flatiron, on its invitation-only opening night Thursday.

He grabbed an orange from a huge tub on the way and placed it on the podium.  

“This is the first restaurant that Joe and I have ever been associated with that was high when it opened,” Mr. Batali said with a cherubic grin. The audience, mainly a mix of Americans and Italians, tittered (lost in translation?). He was referring to Joe Bastianich, one of his partners in the place, alongside Joe’s mom, [Mama] Lidia, and Oscar Farinetti, founder of the original Eataly in Turin.

“We’re at 200 feet, this is the tallest building we’ve ever had to cook in.” He was referring to 200 Fifth Avenue, formerly called the Toy Building, once home to the likes of Mattel and Hasbro and site of annual conventions that dictated what the kids of the Free World would play with in the coming year. Now, with Birreria—a dignified, hip place to get sloshed on beer crafted 30 feet from you sit by Little Rock-born, Rome-raised brewer Brooks Carretta—it’s for the adults (doesn’t hurt the analogy either that engagement-ring racket Tiffany’s has its corporate HQ downstairs).

Martha Stewart showed, to a warm welcome from Mr. Batali, though she left rather quickly, just as Transom steadied itself from a beer, wine and hors d’oeuvres dinner for an approach. Mama Lidia and Sam Calagione, the rock-star-ish founder of brewery Dogfish Head who has helped put the “Birre” in “Birreria,” stayed past 9 p.m., around the time the beer really got flowing from the bar.

Mr. Batali, like Ms. Stewart, split on the early side. His orange, however, remained. :: @tacitelli Batali and Mama Lidia, High on Fifth