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Mario Batali Explains Why His New Restaurant Is Taking So Long

Batali, at last night's gala.
Batali, at last night's gala.

Even as the Eataly empire continues to grow, New York City hasn’t gotten a true restaurant from Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich since Del Posto opened way back in 2005. Anticipation, then, is high for La Sirena, B&B; Hospitality’s upcoming Italian behemoth inside the Maritime Hotel. It was supposed to open this fall, but, alas, delays are common in the restaurant world, and it appears New York will have to wait just a little longer for the team to unveil their new spot to the city. In the meantime, Grub caught up with Batali at last night’s Mario Batali Foundation Honors Dinner (held at Del Posto) to check in with the chef, who told us that even though the restaurant is “three months late and millions of dollars over budget,” he’s not sweating things — yet.

Your new restaurant is in the Maritime, which is nearby. How’s it going?
Yes, two blocks. And it’s 30 percent over budget and three months late. Isn’t that fascinating? I’ve never had a project quite like this. It’s much more delicate dealing with the hotel, and a club called Tao, that’s our neighbor downstairs. It’s just, you know, we’re doing it all the right way. It used to be you kind of put up a big wooden board and did whatever you had to do and you just opened. Now we’re under intense scrutiny all the time, so we’re doing everything in a much slower, more methodical way, which is slightly annoying but effective — it’s very cleansing.

When do you expect to open?
I can’t even tell you — I don’t know. I was told August 1 at the beginning of the summer. I mean, obviously for tax purposes we need to open and serve people before the end of the year, so I’m thinking December 10.

It’s indoors and outdoors.
Indoors and outdoors — and big. So I think it’ll be the most comfortable and delightful outdoor space in the entire city.
 
How so?
Because we’re just really making it cool. It already had a good setup. They had already done a good job. Now we’re going to be in there. It’s going to be a little on the swanky side, a little on the edgy side, because you’re right there on the street, a little gritty. I think it’ll be very celebratory. And it’s going to be less expensive than Babbo, so kind of between Lupa and Babbo.

And it’s called La Sirena.
Do you know what La Sirena is? There was a voyage and there were these sirens sitting on the rocks, just outside of Sorrento. And if any ship went through, the sirens would sing so much that all of the sailors would be entranced by it and they would crash their ships onto the rocks and die. Did you ever see O Brother, Where Art Thou? You should see that movie immediately because that’s the story. In it, the sirens are actually these women who are right next to where they’re doing a baptism ceremony. And these women sing these beautiful songs, and John Goodman comes out and does this amazing thing and steals their money and turns one of them into a frog.
 
But at this point are you worried about the delays?
Even if you’re three months late and millions of dollars over budget, I’m finding it hard to get very worked up about that. I’m not worried. It will open. Joe Bastianich will lose whatever hair he has, and I’ll keep both of mine, and it’ll be fine.

Will the menu be similar to the version you released this summer?
Well, that was the format. That’s the idea, but everything will change because we’re going to go grocery shopping and we’ll figure out what they’ve really got. You know Italian food is about seasonality. But bucatini all Amatriciana you can make year-round. We wanted people to see that this is first restaurant that I’m ever going to serve breakfast in. It’s the first restaurant I’m ever going to do room service in. There are infinite opportunities to expand what we’ve already done into a whole new kind of platform. We’re going to have high tea here. It’s crazy. 

Mario Batali Explains Why His New Restaurant Is Taking So Long