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Bankers strike back against Batali's dictator comparison

November 10, 2011 |  9:04 am

Mario Batali is quaking in his orange Crocs this morning.

In less than 24 hours, the celebrity chef went from the go-to restaurateur for the Wall Street expense-account crowd, to the biggest nemesis of the moneyed set.

It all began Wednesday afternoon when Forbes directed its readers to comments that Batali made at a Time Magazine event this week.

Channeling some of the anger of Occupy Wall Street, Batali bemoaned the influence of the financial industry with a rather inapt comparison: 

The ways the bankers have kind of toppled the way money is distributed and taken most of it into their hands is as good as Stalin or Hitler and the evil guys.

This did not sit well with the many bankers who take their clients to Batali establishments such as Babbo and Del Posto -- and they made their ire known swiftly.

In the restaurant review section of the Bloomberg financial network -- the online home of Wall Street -- Batali's restaurants were bombarded with negative reviews. By Thursday morning, all of the five most reviewed restaurants were Batali owned, and nearly every one of those reviews said "don't go."

"If you like betrayal, you should go," one reviewer wrote about Del Posto, the Batali establishment where a seven-course meal with wine pairings goes for $300.

Dealbreaker, a Wall Street blog, reported that Tullett Prebon, a financial firm, banned its employees from doing business at Batali's restaurants.

Batali has tried to stanch the bleeding by posting an apology on his Twitter account.

"It was never my intention to equate our banking industry with Hitler and Stalin, two of the most evil, brutal dictators in modern history," he said.

But he didn't do himself any favors when he then reposted comments supporting his outspokenness -- comments like: "@Mariobatali ONLY chef I know not afraid to speak his mind."

For those outside the financial world, the incident is being seen as an opportunity to land a coveted reservation at one of Batali's restaurant.

Unfortunately, the crowd that might be most sympathetic to Batali's comments -- Occupy Wall Street -- also was on the wrong end of one of Batali's comments at the Time event when he said, "Those guys in Zuccotti Park, they’re kind of just sitting around."


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-- Nathaniel Popper

Photo: Chef Mario Batali speaks during the Time Person of the Year panel in New York City on Tuesday night. Credit: Jemal Countess / Getty Images