Mario Batali

The hot-tempered star chef prepares to be grilled.

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Illustration: Rob Kelly

In a city where multitasking celebrity chefs are stretched thinner than cellophane noodles, flame-haired Mario Batali reigns supreme (in his flaming clogs). He owns half the hottest food and wine spots in town, including Lupa, Esca, Otto Enoteca Pizzeria, Del Posto (which was just awarded two Michelin stars) and Italian Wine Merchants, and the much loved and eternally difficult to get into Babbo (he cooks there three to four nights a week). Batali, 46, also has his nimble fingers in Casa Mono, Bar Jamon and the Spotted Pig.

In a city where multitasking celebrity chefs are stretched thinner than cellophane noodles, flame-haired Mario Batali reigns supreme (in his flaming clogs). He owns half the hottest food and wine spots in town, including Lupa, Esca, Otto Enoteca Pizzeria, Del Posto (which was just awarded two Michelin stars) and Italian Wine Merchants, and the much loved and eternally difficult to get into Babbo (he cooks there three to four nights a week). Batali, 46, also has his nimble fingers in Casa Mono, Bar Jamon and the Spotted Pig.

But wait, there's more. When he's not writing cookbooks, slinging hash on Food Network's Iron Chef America, working with his wife's obstetrician on an upcoming food/pregnancy book (seriously) or creating lines of cookware, Batali isaccording to the tabloids, anyway—partying and generally living large. This Tuesday, the peripatetic chef will be "Roasted, Battered and Fried" for the New York Comedy Festival (proceeds go to the Food Bank for New York City). On a recent morning, after serving "Batali Boys' Breakfast" to sons Benno and Leo, the chef chatted with TONY from his Greenwich Village apartment.

Who will be roasting you?

Lewis Black, Sarah Silverman, James Gandolfini, Michael Imperioli—it goes on. It gives me a stomachache. I have to sit there like an idiot while they skewer me. I do get a rebuttal at the end—a Daily Show writer is helping me write jokes.

Speaking of roasts: If you were an animal, what would you be? And would you want to be roasted?

I'd be a guinea pig, the national dish of South America. I would want to be slowly poached in Chateau d'Yquem, starting at cellar temperature. By the time you were truly done you'd be wasted, so you wouldn't really care.

In Heat, is Bill Buford's portrait of you accurate? Are you friends?

We are still friends but initially I couldn't believe he wrote this or that, or that I didn't get approval. His picture is relatively correct. I am not nearly that maniacal or twisted or mental, and there's not nearly that Machiavellian level of superjockeying for power in the kitchen. Once people get beyond the case of wine in one evening, or my saying the word fuck, it will be a flattering thing to be considered the topic of a book. If my mom and my mother-in-law aren't mad about it, I'm not going to be mad about it. Well, my mom won't talk to Bill anymore, but that's okay. That's just mom being part of the team.

Why do you think gossip columns are so interested in you? And what's with the Daily News linking you to Courtney Love?

I'm an easy target. It's the Fox News--ation of the tabloids. Names sell. Am I having sex with Courtney Love? No. That was hilarious. You have to go home and say, "Hi honey, there's stuff in the paper—it's not true." I wasn't even in town at the time. I could point that out to my wife. I do go out. I go have drinks, but there are no drug deals or sex deals or stolen cars.

Okay, now that you've sold Bistro du Vent and are free to comment, don't you think the staff orgy that was caught on surveillance tape was funny?

It was a great piece of fiction. It never happened. First you see the guys getting a little frisky at the table, like they were getting ready to do coke. Then you see the face of the guy turning the camera toward the wall, then it tuned out. For the record, I would like you to know Joe Bastianich and I looked into making an orgy tape and selling it la Pamela Anderson. There was a possible business opportunity there [Laughs] but it was going to cost $80,000 to do it.

Are you bummed that colored plastic clogs are in? I hate it when something I think of as mine becomes popular. And why orange?

You know where it is most popular? First through sixth grade everywhere. As long as the kids wear them, it's okay. My wife [Susi Cahn of Coach Dairy Goat Farm] chose orange years ago. The kids say it's the national Batali color.

You're fighting with your landlords at Del Posto. How's that going?

Their lawyer is a smart guy. He has been on us every day. The landlords are little bald men with small penises who live in Greenwich. We're never going to leave, and they're never going to come in my restaurant.

"Mario Batali: Roasted, Battered and Fried" is Tuesday 7 at Capitale. For tickets, call 212-249-6188.

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