Last night, Mario Batali hosted his second annual MB Honors dinner at Del Posto to benefit the Mario Batali Foundation. Batali, and attendee Jamie Oliver, mingled with the A-list crowd (VIP tables went for $15,000; standard tickets started at $1,500), but Grub caught up to them to talk about Babbo's newly regained Michelin star and why, despite an old report to the contrary, Jamie Oliver still isn't quite ready to open a restaurant in this country.
Mario, Michelin just came out with the ratings, and your restaurants were bumped up. So what are you doing differently?
Mario Batali: Sometimes the guides help you, and sometimes they hinder you. You dont want to create an experience for the guide. If the book is relevant, its interesting to see what people think about your restaurant. You want to build a restaurant that has happy cooks, happy servers, and happy customers. If they recognize us, thats great. Babbo had a star, lost it, and now its back. Were always trying to make it better, and sometimes you need someone to say, "I didnt love what you loved." Were very proud to be involved in any book like that.
Jamie, any thoughts to expand your restaurants to the U.S.?
Jamie Oliver: I was just talking to Mario about it. As cocky as I am in the U.K., Im just a little bit frightened in the U.S.
JO: I dont know.
MB: So, its off your radar, or its still percolating?
JO: Its always been there. When you have multiple restaurants with years and years of building relationships ... and this place [looks around at Del Posto] is a testament to that ... theres a whole team behind all of that, and I just havent had the right partner. Ive just held it off and off and off.
JO: How and when and at what price? I think its still in the mix. Id love to do it one day. Maybe Ill grow some balls and sort it out!