Mario Batali pleaded not guilty on Friday morning to indecent assault and battery of a woman that he allegedly kissed and groped against her will in a Boston restaurant in 2017.
The accuser, who has been identified as Natali Tene by her lawyer, filed a civil lawsuit against Batali last summer after recounting her experience for Eater NY. According to Tene, she met Batali at Towne Stove and Spirits, a bar located next to Boston’s Eataly. Per Eater NY:
She claims that Batali, who seemed intoxicated, suggested they take selfies together, then rubbed her breasts, grabbed her backside, put his hands between her legs, and kept squeezing her face into his as he kissed her. The resulting photos, which she provided to Eater, were “shockingly uncomfortable,” she said. A friend who was there with her said he witnessed Batali being “handsy.”
Tene, who had been a longtime fan of Batali’s, also told Eater NY that the chef asked if she wanted to join him at his hotel.
If convicted, Batali would be required to register as a sex offender and could face up to five years in prison. At this point in time, he is the only restaurant-world figure to face criminal charges for sexual harassment and abuse, although multiple chefs and restaurateurs have been accused of misconduct since the #MeToo movement reached the restaurant industry, a historic hotbed of toxic and inappropriate behavior.
Sexual misconduct allegations against Batali span more than 20 years and include grabbing, unwanted touching, abusive language, and an NYPD investigation into two separate sexual assault accusations. The alleged misconduct first became public in December 2017 in an Eater NY investigation recounting the accusations of four women. In the aftermath, Batali was fired from The Chew, had his merchandise excised from Eataly’s shelves, and, after more than a year, officially divested from his restaurants.
Through his attorney, Batali denied the accusations laid out in the Boston criminal complaint: “The charges, brought by the same individual without any new basis, are without merit,” said lawyer Anthony Fuller in a statement. “He intends to fight the allegations vigorously and we expect the outcome to fully vindicate Mr. Batali.”
Batali was released without bail on the condition that he stay away from the woman who accused him. His next pretrial hearing, which Batali will not have to attend, is scheduled for July 12.
- Mario Batali pleads not guilty to sex assault charge in Boston court [Boston Globe]
- Mario Batali Appears in Court to Deny Charges of Sexual Assault [NYT]
- Mario Batali pleads not guilty to assault and battery charge in Boston for allegedly groping, kissing woman [NBC News]
- Coverage of Mario Batali on Eater [E]