Timeout New York Kids

Make the most of your city

Interview: Chef and restaurateur Mario Batali

We sat down with Mario Batali, the brains behind Eataly and other popular city restaurants, at the Hellmann’s 100th Anniversary luncheon.

Photograph: JeffreySchifman

Few international cuisines are quite as kid-friendly as Italian, and Mario Batali, owner of New York City restaurants Babbo, Del Posto, Otto and the Madison Square Park foodie mecca Eataly, is king. After chowing down on some of his mayo-based dishes like salsa burgers and chicken pasta salad at the Hellmann’s 100th Anniversary luncheon, Time Out Kids chatted with the celebrity chef himself, where he talked about Father's Day plans, how not to raise picky eaters and his favorite city culinary spots (besides his own, of course). And yes—the signature orange Crocs made an appearance.

Hi, Mr. Batali!
Call me Mario. So you’re from Time Out Kids? We read it! We gotta find out what’s going on. You guys are the only central location for all that information. I mean, you could comb through all the other pieces but they’ll only have like, one thing for kids.

That’s so great to hear! What types of things does your family enjoy doing in the city?
We live between Washington Square and Union Square. For us, just to going to Washington Square and watching the people perform, play piano and strum guitars… and we go to Union Square Greenmarket—that’s like, fun for us! We go shopping for vegetables and local cheese and whatever, and we love walking across the Brooklyn Bridge; we do it once a month. We take the Staten Island Ferry…

Just because?
Just because! It’s free! We also go to Smorgasburg. You just go over and get on the East River Ferry at 34th Street for four dollars and it takes you all the way to Smorgasburg. It drops you right in front and you go, you have lunch, you walk around, you shop.

Sounds perfect!
So basically, we’re just deeply in love with New York—just as we are deeply in love with getting out of town every now and then. So we go to my wife’s farm in Pine Plains. It’s in Columbia-Duchess County. Look, I’ll show you what we did this past week. (flips through cell phone pictures of his family collecting wild plants) You know ramps, right? The vegetable? This is how many we have: as far as you can see—they’re wild and they’re free. We pick them all together. That’s my wife! (pointing to woman in photo) Everyone loves them.

I would imagine your kids aren’t picky eaters?
Absolutely not. We didn’t allow that! The way to not have a picky eater is for the kids to work with you in the kitchen. Once they’ve done anything to a vegetable, by the time it’s cooked, they’re like, “Yeah, I’m gonna eat this. Of course I’m gonna eat this.” It’s never like, “What is this weird green thing you just dropped on my table from another planet?”

What are their favorite things that you cook?
They like agnolotti from Eataly—well, they like everything from Eataly, actually. That was a home run for them. They like whatever I cook at home. I cook Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and we have a babysitter who cooks Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.

You let other people cook in your house?!
Well, yeah! Her name is Leonora. When she cooks, I don’t miss dinner. So we have dinner at home almost every night. And then every now and then we do takeout, and every now and then we go out to fancy or not-so-fancy restaurants, like Pearl Oyster Bar. It’s one of my favorites in town.

What are your plans for the summer?
We always go to Michigan. Then there’s the Aspen Food & Wine Classic over Father’s Day weekend, and then we come back here for another week, then we drive back to Michigan and stay there ‘til Labor Day.

What a great way to spend Father’s Day for you!

It’s perfect: I go, I do my little demo, I do a little dance and song, and we go up to the bluegrass brunch at the top of the mountain on Sunday.

Wonderful! Well, it was so great meeting you.
Did you eat everything yet? Make sure you try the burger. It’s so good, right?

Oh my gosh, it was amazing. My dad brags about his burgers, but…
Tell him, “I don’t know if that’s true, Dad!”

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