Who's in a feud with Esquire's restaurant man John Mariani now? Why, it's New York restaurateur and author of the recent memoir Restaurant Man Joe Bastianich. (See previous Mariani feuds with Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, Anthony Bourdain Part One, Part Two, Part Whatever, Michelin, molecular gastronomy.)
In the book, Bastianich called Mariani a "self-righteous, condescending prick," and then, according to Page Six, Mariani says the description is "not just vile but so duplicitous that it's difficult to imagine you are truly the son of your ever cordial, ever civilized parents." Oh, good.
So there's a story in Restaurant Man in which Bastianich describes Mariani criticizing him in the dining room of his restaurant Becco twenty some years ago for serving bad fish. (To his credit, Bastianich admits the fish was likely rotten.) Here are a few key phrases from the passage:
· "John Mariani, a food critic who was still important at the time."
· "He just sliced my balls off, right there at tableside, and let me bleed from my crotch as his guests smirked and laughed on."
· "Since then pretty much everyone who's had to deal with him knows what a self-righteous, condescending prick he can be."
So, yes, gloves are off. And according to Page Six, Mariani wrote Bastianich a letter accusing him of "warp[ing] the truth to suit what are clearly your own insecurities" and trying "to out-Bourdain [Anthony] Bourdain," and says the book "must appall your mother [Lidia]." He writes, "Your characterization of me...is not just vile but so duplicitous that it's difficult to imagine you are truly the son of your ever cordial, ever civilized parents...You obviously do lack the balls ever to have said any of this to my face in the past 20 years." Mariani then says he's pro-Bastianich, citing the fact that he put both Bastianich and his business partner Mario Batali in the Esquire Restaurant Hall of Fame in 2010.
Well, that's fun. So what does Bastianich write to elicit such a reaction? The passage, below.
And then there was John Mariani, a food critic who was still important at the time. He berated me. I served him a red snapper I'd bought from Herbie Slavin, and John said it was the most rancid, disgusting piece of fish he'd ever had. He told me, right there, sitting at the table, looking up at me with laser beams for eyes, that he'd broken the head open and it stank of rotten fish and almost made him vomit. I felt the air leave my lungs. I thought I was going to pass out. I was standing there, emasculated, in front of an entire dining room full of people. He just sliced my balls off, right there at tableside, and let me bleed from my crotch as his guests smirked and laughed on. That was our first meeting.
Bastianich goes on to admit that he likely did serve bad fish, and describes how it happened (bait and switch at the fish market, "idiot chef"). Then:
He made me feel that I had disgraced my entire hardworking immigrant family by serving him an inadequate snapper, and that my entire lineage of forefathers were rolling in their graves at this egregious error that I had committed. It was brutal. Since then pretty much everyone who's had to deal with him knows what a self-righteous, condescending prick he can be. When Mario and I opened Babbo, I was a little unsure how to handle Mariani — my dad told me, "John eats for free." But Mario set me straight. This was the kitchen talking to the front of house: Fuck him, he pays. Everyone pays.
John Mariani has been contacted for comment and updates will be posted accordingly. Update: Here's the Angry Letter John Mariani Sent Joe Bastianich.