Friday, May 28, 2010

Memo to Mario Batali

To: Emperor Batali

Cc: Blogosphere

From: A Plebeian Foodie

Subject: Your Behavior

Dear Emperor Batali,

I recently stopped by your restaurant, Mozza2Go for a book signing. Since I already had your new book, Molto Gusto, Easy Italian Cooking at Home, I figured you’d sign it while we exchanged some gastro repartee and maybe dish a little about your Spring Peas with Mint. On the tube, you seem upbeat, charming, culturally curious, and quite the provocateur, so can you blame me for wanting to bask in your gargantuan glow for a fleeting nanosecond? (Not to mention, I was still on a legume high from those fabulous peas.)

I thought I'd have to stand in a long line, and as my reward, you'd allow me one question or anecdote and maybe a photo. Believe me, I knew enough to make it about you. Somehow I couldn’t see you being too interested in my blog or that I just ate at Babbo and that you should ask my waiter why he didn’t serve us olive oil to go with our bread. Nope, I settled on the topic of your peas. Emperor, you still reading this? Just checking.

To my amazement, I found easy street parking, and when I walked in, there was no one in line. It was just you, me and several of your “people.” I muttered to your 20-year old girl-hottie handler that I already had the book, and with a Swiss-clock precision hand movement, she said, Right this way.” Right this way? I was the only one there, and you were sitting at a table 10 feet in front of me. I knew the way. Your bare legs and orange Crocs were the telling lighthouse in my sea of confusion.

Granted, I showed up 45 minutes after it started, but it seems to me a Batali event would have attracted a coliseum-sized crowd if your P.R. patricians had handled it properly. But no. There was just a slew of your books and me. As I inched up closer to your greatness, I had the audacity to make eye contact with you. It was like looking directly into the sun. Retinas burning, I quickly turned away. I felt your imperious demeanor condemning me for your empire's fall. Or maybe you're just like that naturally. Who knows (I bet your wife does), but I'm guessing Nero is your hero. Then I had the unmitigated gall to speak to you.

“I made the peas," I said. "But I didn’t have any club soda. What’s that for?”

“It's to keep the peas crisp,” you said tartly, with no apparent interest in my personal relationship with your peas.

“What’s your name?” you asked, perfunctorily and rushed.

It was clear you wanted to sign the book and be on to the next person in line, who, incidentally, was no one. Emperor, why the hurry? Were you late for your next phantom book signing? Shouldn’t my pea comment have warranted a “How did you like them?” Or at the very least, a meager, child-sized portion of a smile? Should I not have been rewarded in some infinitesimal way for actually showing up to revel in your renown?

“Can I get a picture?” I said to your girl hottie handler.

“Sure,” said girl hottie, brusquely, as if well-prepped for the question and motioning me again with Swiss-clock precision to give her my camera and get behind the table.

I stood next to you as you made no acknowledgment of my existence. I might as well have been a blow-up doll. You did acknowledge the camera, however, and managed to look more civil than you behaved. And I bet you weren't too pleased that some P.R. patrician made you play dolly dress-up in the exact same outfit that's on your book cover when you could have been in your toga and Crocs.

After barely evading the Emperor’s wrath, I walked outside and sat down on a bench between two young women and their signed books. I looked at my camera.

“This picture is terrible of me,” I griped.

“Why don’t you go back?” said the girl on my right.

“I don’t think so,” I said. “The way he acted?”

“Yeah, I know,” said the girl on my left.

Then the girl on my right showed me her picture with you, and she was cuddled up close to you. Unlike me, she was not afraid.

“That’s a cute picture,” I said.

“But my bra strap is showing. I’m gonna go back.”

“I wouldn’t go back,” I said.

“I’ll never forgive myself if I don’t.”

Ah, to be young and reckless. I miss youth. But as an adult, I know better than to look into the sun twice. You can Photoshop a bra strap, but you can’t get a new pair of eyes.

So Dear Emperor, my advice to you is this: When life gives you lemons, make a lemon panna cotta. Don’t take it out on us plebes. We're the ones responsible for your reign. With your 15 restaurants, books, television shows and retail products, the Batali empire wasn't built in a day. It won't end in one either.


Lentil Breakdown, a Plebeian Foodie


  1. So where's the pic?

  2. Ouch! I guess you told him. Good for you.

  3. Your writing is so good I was chuckling the whole time! By the way are we going to see the pic or do we need to wait for that one until you photoshop it?

  4. Not sure yet about the pic. Maybe I'll surprise you!

  5. Brava, Adair, brava! Wow, could he spare a bit of basic courtesy or spare a tiny smile? What a tool! I greatly enjoyed reading your post - cuz you're an amazing writing - but it also really ticked me off. Your last line says it all. I just hope he's listening.