Freshly famous, Batali moved on to his next venture in 1998, partnering with Joe Bastianich to open Babbo, an "uncompromisingly Italian" West Village restaurant with a menu showcasing the porcine chef's obsession with offal.Babbo quickly secured a three-star rating from the ' Ruth Reichl, and Batali's restaurant holdings, media presence, waistline, and ego have continued to expand ever since.In 2008, Mario started the Mario Batali Foundation with the mission of feeding, protecting, educating, and empowering children worldwide.
Then it was off to Europe for a three-year apprenticeship at a restaurant in a small Italian village.
Batali returned to New York in the early 1990s, and following a brief misadventure at an Italian spot off Bleecker Street called Rocco, he opened Pó in the West Village in 1993.
Critics swooned from the start, but it was only after Molto Mario bowed on the Food Network in 1996 that Batali's public profile was really lifted.
Backstory: The son of a Boeing executive, Batali grew up in Seattle and went to college at Rutgers, where he double-majored in business management and Spanish theatre and paid the bills with a part-time job as a dishwasher (and later cook) at a not-exactly-four-star Jersey pizza place called Stuff Yer Face.
After a short stint as a student at Le Cordon Bleu, a "bored" Batali dropped out, choosing instead to get his hands dirty at a tiny pub run by a pre-famous Marco Pierre White, the London superchef who'd also trained noted lunatic Gordon Ramsay.
Of note: While Batali's familiar to the rest of the country because of his longtime ubiquity on the Food Network (see below), locally he's known as one of the most dominant forces on the New York dining scene.