Disgraced celebrity chef Mario Batali—largely out of public view since sexual harassment allegations emerged against him in the media five years ago—returned Monday to face sexual misconduct charges in a Boston trial over accusations he groped and kissed a woman who was taking a selfie with him.
Batali— known for a burgeoning restaurant empire that landed him regular TV gigs before being accused of sexual harassement by several women in 2017 and 2018—waived his right to a jury, leaving a judge to decide the outcome of the trial, according to the Associated Press.
Batali’s accuser, Natali Tene, said Batali called her over after he saw her take a picture of him at a Boston bar, according to the Boston Globe.
Batali, who appeared drunk, suggested they take a selfie, and Tene told prosecutors he touched her breasts, her face and the “sensitive feminine areas in between my legs” before inviting her to come back to his hotel room, which she declined, according to the Globe.
During cross examination from Batali’s attorney Anthony Fuller, Tene denied smiling in her photos with the former Iron Chef, saying she was “visibly uncomfortable” and was “grimacing” to “de-escalate” the situation, the Globe reported.
Fuller argued the assault never happened and that Tene is lying for financial gain, according to the Associated Press.
Tene has also filed a civil case against Batali, and said she pursued both criminal and civil suits against him because “this happened to me and this is my life and I want to be able to take control of what happened,” the Globe reported.
Accusations against Batali, 61, were first alleged in a 2017 Eater expose. Other allegations raised in an article from the New York Times focused on the behavior of Batali and others at one of his New York City restaurants, the hotspot The Spotted Pig. In 2019 the New York Police Department closed the case against Batali, saying there was insufficient evidence to make an arrest. That year Batali pleaded not guilty to Tene’s claims of assault. If convicted, Batali would face up to 2 ½ years in prison and will be required to register as a sex offender. Last year, Batali, his former business partner Joseph Bastianich and their restaurant management company were required to pay $600,000 to settle sexual harassment and discrimination claims at three of their New York City restaurants, Del Posto, Babbo and Lupa.
In 2019, Batali divested from his food empire. At the time a spokesperson for the company formerly known as Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group told the Times the chef “will no longer profit from the restaurants in any way, shape or form.” He also sold his shares in Eataly, the luxury Italian markets and restaurants Batali was once the face of. After the allegations surfaced, Batali was dropped from his job co-hosting ABC’s The Chew, and Food Network canceled plans to release new episodes of his show Malto Mario.
Woman testifies that Chef Mario Batali was ‘grabbing me in a way that I was never touched before’ (The Boston Globe)
Accuser testifies in Mario Batali sexual misconduct trial (Associated Press)
Mario Batali Goes on Trial in Sexual Misconduct Case (The New York Times)
Mario Batali Settles Sexual Harassment And Discrimination Case For $600,000 (Forbes)