The New York Police Department is investigating a second sexual assault complaint against celebrity chef Mario Batali, a person familiar with the matter said today.
In that complaint, which has not been previously reported, a woman told police on March 15 that Batali drugged and sexually assaulted her in January 2004 at his Greenwich Village restaurant Babbo. The woman told police she had been drinking at the bar and went upstairs to use the bathroom, according to the person familiar with the complaint, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Her next memory was waking up as Batali was raping her.
On Sunday, “60 Minutes” interviewed a different, unidentified woman who said Batali had sexually assaulted her in 2005 at the Spotted Pig, a popular restaurant in Greenwich Village owned by restaurateur Ken Friedman and chef April Bloomfield. The woman said she had passed out after drinking with him, and woken up with scratches on her leg and semen on her skirt; she called a rape crisis hotline and had a rape kit taken at a hospital. The woman said she reported the incident to police but did not file a complaint.
J. Peter Donald, assistant commissioner for the Police Department, confirmed today that it is now investigating the Spotted Pig incident, but would not confirm the 2004 complaint about Babbo. Danny Frost, a spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., said he could not comment on whether Vance’s office was investigating Batali.
Batali has said he “vehemently denies” allegations that he engaged in any nonconsensual sex.
The New York Times reported in December on claims by several current and former employees that they had been sexually harassed by Friedman and some of his guests, including Batali, at the Spotted Pig and other Friedman-Bloomfield restaurants. Jamie Seet, a former general manager at the Spotted Pig, said that during a party in 2008, she intervened when she saw on the security camera feed that Batali, who was drunk, was groping and kissing a woman who appeared to be unconscious. The website Eater investigated similar behavior by Batali toward his staff.
Batali, 57, is an investor in the Spotted Pig and a longtime friend of Friedman. Both men were immediately removed from daily operations at the restaurants they once led. Their partners have been trying to extricate them from their restaurants entirely.
On Sunday night, after the “60 Minutes” report, the B&B Hospitality group, the empire of more than 20 restaurants built by Batali and his partners Joe and Lidia Bastianich, said in a statement: “The accounts tonight were chilling and deeply disturbing,” and added, “Our partnership with Mr. Batali is ending.”
Bloomfield also issued a statement, saying, “I am in the final stages of severing my partnership” with Friedman.
In recent weeks, Batali has been talking with friends and associates about whether a comeback or a new career might be possible.