Restaurateur and celebrity chef Mario Batali goes on trial in Boston this week for sexual misconduct allegations dating back to 2017, involving an alleged incident at a now-closed Back Bay restaurant Towne Stove and Spirits. A 2018 report by Eater NY detailed this and other claims by several different women that Batali inappropriately touched them. The 2018 reporting of the incident at Towne Stove and Spirits was a followup to Eater NY’s initial report in 2017 detailing at least two decades of alleged sexual misconduct by Batali.
The alleged incident at Towne involved Batali suggesting that he and a woman take selfies together after she recognized him at the restaurant. She alleged that he proceeded to rub her breasts, forcibly kiss her, put her hands between her legs, and invite her to his hotel room. Her allegation of her led to a charge of indecent assault and battery against Batali, to which he pleaded not guilty in May 2019. She has also filed a separate civil suit in Boston’s Suffolk Superior Court.
“I was just in total disbelief when he touched me like that, I couldn’t believe it when it was happening,” the woman told Eater NY in 2018. “In the moment it was just so crazy, it was humiliating. The more I thought about it later, the angrier I got. But I thought maybe I was alone, maybe it was an isolated incident. When I saw the news, I had this feeling like, ‘Yes, he’s being exposed as a creep’ — but also sadness and lots of anger that he got away with this behavior for so long.”
While jury selection was reportedly set to begin today, May 9, at Boston Municipal Court, following pandemic-related delays, Batali instead waived his right to a jury trial; Judge James M. Stanton will decide the outcome. A conviction could land Batali in jail for up to two and a half years, and he could be required to register as a sex offender.
Batali was also under investigation by the New York Police Department in 2018 for two alleged sexual assaults in New York dating back to 2004 and 2005, but the NYPD closed the investigations in early 2019, reportedly due to a lack of evidence or witnesses.
Batali ran a number of restaurants along with Joe and Lidia Bastianich, under the banner of the B&B Hospitality Group, including lauded New York spots such as Babbo and the now-closed Del Posto, as well as United States locations of Eataly, a chain of massive Italian markets and restaurants. Eataly has a Boston location that remains in operation (located steps from the now-closed Towne) and a Babbo location that closed in 2019. By early 2019, Batali had divested from all his restaurants by him.
Back in 2017, Batali provided a statement to Eater NY that he was stepping away from day-to-day operations of his businesses and did not deny all of the allegations against him, saying that “much of the behavior described does, in fact, match up with ways I have acted.” In the 2018 followup report, including allegations of the Boston incident, Batali declined to comment. At the time of Batali’s 2019 arraignment for the trial that begins this week, his lawyer reportedly said that the allegations were “without merit.”
At the start of Batali’s trial on May 9, 2022, his lawyer Anthony Fuller reportedly stated: “The defense in this case is very simple. It didn’t happen… We will show you substantial evidence that [the alleged victim] you have concocted this whole story.”
Update, 11:40 a.m.: This piece has been updated to reflect that Batali waived his right to a jury trial on May 9, and quotes from Batali’s lawyer’s opening argument have also been added.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism