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EatBeat: Mario Batali at Publix Apron’s in Boca Raton Thursday

December 9th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Mario Batali

Mario Batali

Celeb Italian chef Mario Batali – the one with the orange ponytail who lists Iron Chef America on his credits, will be in Boca Raton at the Publix Apron’s Cooking School Thursday afternoon.

The demo class he’s giving to promote his new pasta sauces (available in Publix – see my taste-test below) is sold out, but he’ll be around for a public book signing and meet-and-greet at 2 p.m.

Short pants and dress codes

Batali with his sons

Batali with his sons

I talked to the chef by phone for a Q&A that will appear in the Sentinel’s food section on Thursday, Dec. 17. We chatted about numerous things – including his shorts, the future of fine dining, and one of his favorite dishes for the holidays – glazed eels, an Italian tradition.

Do his sons Benno and Leo like them?  “Not everyday – but they look forward to them on Christmas Eve,” he says.

mario-vespaBatali is known for wearing shorts in almost all weather – everywhere he goes, including in his kitchens. “If it’s below 45 degrees, my sons have to wear long pants. For me, it has to be below 30, and I’ll wear long pants,” he says. “But inside – I’m in shorts.”  That’s at his home in Northport, Mich., he shares with spouse Susi, and their sons.

Because of that, there’s really no firm dress code at his restaurants. “How are you going to tell a guest there’s a dress code when the chef’s wearing short pants?” He laughed at the thought.

Rethinking the fine dining restaurant

When asked about gastropubs – the latest wave of casual but serious dining, he thinks that the days of white-tablecloth restaurants are dwindling. “I don’t want to write their eulogy just yet, but unless we can find a way to revitalize white tablecloth restaurants, then gastropubs and more casual dining with really good food is the wave of the future,” he said.

“If we can somehow find a way to get people together in the same dining room who wear jackets and ties at one table, and short sleeves at another one  – it will work out. It used to be a mutually exclusive group. We need to create an environment that can accommodate both.”

Part of that falls to the diner, Batali said. “If you can realize the bond is the experience of enjoying great food together, then it works out.”

Batali has lowered prices at Del Posto, his 2-Michelin star restaurant in New York City that he owns with Joe Bastianich. The upscale products are still on the menu, but not in every food or in the same quantity, he says.

Green and Slow

His current project with Bastianich is Eataly New York — a 60,000-square-foot fresh foods market  that’s based on the Eataly in Torino, Italy. He’s working on it in conjunction with Slow Foods — the international organization that champions artisan food producers and sustainable growing or harvesting practices, among other ideals.

All his restaurants are now “green” as of this week; they are LEED certified, meaning they are environmentally friendly. He’s also a huge supporter of local growers and food producers and works to draw attention to those producers whose foods he uses.

Mario Batali book signing

  • Where: Publix Apron’s Cooking School, 5050 Champion Blvd. (Polo Club Shoppes), Boca Raton
  • When: Dec. 10, 2 p.m.
  • Cost and information: Free event; for more information, call (561) 994-4883


Mario’s Marinara Sauce — A Taste Test

delgrosso-saucemario-sauceIn my home kitchen for dinner last night, I tasted off Mario Batali’s Marinara with my other favorite — DelGrosso’s Aunt Mary Ann’s Sunday Marinara.

Both products are made with all natural foods — that’s my criteria, along with not having any added sugar or especially, no high-fructose corn syrup. A good sauce won’t need it.

I cooked some Barilla whole wheat spaghetti al dente, and tasted each sauce, well heated, mixed with it.

Mario the winner

Mario’s sauce won me over. It was well balanced on the palate, with a good texture – not chunky but still clingy on the noodles. The flavor was bright and clean, and tasted of fresh tomatoes. San Marzano imported tomatoes are listed as the only source for tomato in his sauce.

Spices weren’t overdone, nor was salt. The very slight sweetness that balances the acid in the tomatoes comes from carrots. It’s an old chef’s trick to use a little grated carrot to sweeten a dish.

DelGrosso’s sauce, while a deeper red and very tomato-rich, was a tad acidic in comparison. Left standing in its pot, I noted that it separated and its surface became watery; Batali’s sauce held together. 

DelGrosso’s too, has a good texture, with basil an addition that’s evident in the pieces suspended in the sauce. Along with “imported plum tomatoes” the label also lists “crushed tomatoes.”

Bottom line at the cash register

It could have been an even tougher call — but the price is the deal-breaker.

At $4.99 for Batali’s sauce (22 ounces) vs. $7.99 for DelGrosso’s (24 ounces), there was no contest for me.

Both sauces are available at Publix.

Tags: Food People · The Eat Beat: Restaurant News

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 sirio ross // Feb 7, 2011 at 1:14 am

    If he’s Italian and trained in Italy he’s got the juice.
    E vai Mario!!!!

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