March 20, 2019

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Mario Batali Exits His Restaurants

Mario Batali Exits His Restaurants
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The new agreement returns control of the restaurants to the family, who have been working together since the 1970s, when Lidia Bastianich and her husband, Felice Bastianich, opened their first Italian restaurants, in Queens. Their children helped out from the time they were old enough to fold napkins. (Felice Bastianich died in 2010.)

Tanya Bastianich Manuali will head day-to-day operations for the new restaurant group.CreditDiana DeLucia

Now, Mrs. Bastianich Manuali, 46, will be in charge of operations across the group, a position that did not exist before. “We need to blow the dust off,” she said in an interview, gesturing to the battalion of elegantly uniformed servers at Del Posto. “These people have been living under a cloud long enough.”

As part of the reorganization, Melissa Rodriguez, Del Posto’s executive chef, and Jeff Katz, its longtime general manager, have become stakeholders in that restaurant, a precious reward that encourages loyalty and motivation. (The chefs Dave Pasternack at Esca in Midtown Manhattan and Andy Nusser at the three Tarry Lodge restaurants in Westchester and Connecticut already have ownership shares.)

Ms. Rodriguez was trained by her predecessor, Mark Ladner, Del Posto’s original chef; she is the first woman other than Ms. Bastianich to hold that position in any of the group’s New York restaurants.

“It will be good not to be a black spot on the map any longer,” Mr. Katz said.

Asked whether she regretted opening the family business to Mr. Batali, Ms. Bastianich, 72, said only, “Everything was done with the best intentions.”

Mr. Bastianich, 50, did acknowledge regret about having spent much of the last decade away from the restaurants that he and Mr. Batali had opened together. His professional attention has shifted to Italy, where he has been a judge on nine seasons of the blockbuster cooking show “MasterChef.” He has vineyards in Friuli, a residence in Milan, and has appeared in Italian commercials for McDonald’s and Alitalia.

In the early years of the partnership, Mr. Batali and Ms. Bastianich were the media stars, with Mr. Bastianich operating behind the scenes. “As a 200-pound bald guy I was in the shadow of Mario, in the shadow of my mom,” he said.

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