When you make a reservation at Del Posto you do so with an expectation of superb fine dining with outstanding service, amazing food, and delicious wine. On Monday night the Del Posto experience was elevated to new heights when approximately 200 diners enjoyed a multi-course dinner with wine pairings during a special evening hosted by none other than Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich, two of the restaurants’ owners. It’s not everyday you get to dine among two of the biggest names in the food world.
As giddy, star-struck guests entered the beautiful Barbaresco Room at Del Posto, Lidia herself was already passing out some of her delicious hors d’oeuvres for everyone to nibble on with a welcoming glass of Champagne. From start to finish the evening was nothing short of Del Posto excellence. There is no wondering why the restaurant is up for a James Beard Award for Outstanding Service as every server was attentive and professional without the stuffiness one would expect from a four-star NY Times restaurant.
Even though Mario Batali seemed to have forgotten to dress up for the occasion wearing his trademark fleece vest, shorts, and pink button-up shirt with rolled up sleeves (we still love him!), he was definitely ready to act as gracious host as he and Lidia took the stage to welcome everyone and begin their introductions to the first course. The “dueling menu” consisted of five courses with each chef preparing their own interpretation based on a classic dish or specific ingredient; Lidia’s was always served on the left and Mario’s on the right. Between each course the chefs explained why and how they prepared their dish and allowed for guests to ask a few questions.
Later in the evening there was a longer Q&A session during which guests asked questions from “What are the three most important ingredients?” (Lidia’s answer: garlic, olive oil, and either parsley or basil) to “Have you ever ordered in using Seamless.com?” Neither chef even knew what this was. At one point Lidia declared her love for Korean food and Mario admitted he doesn’t care much for trendy molecular gastronomy techniques (since “Everything is molecular! Everything is made up of molecules. Why mess around with the textures?”
For those who have watched both chefs rise to stardom and have enjoyed all their restaurants and watch them on TV, it was truly an amazing opportunity to meet and speak with both Mario and Lidia. It’s rare that anyone can gain this much access to two of the biggest names in food. Even if Mario didn’t stick around to take photos with fans, he was happy to answer any and all questions and offer detailed responses.
While both chefs created great dishes it wouldn’t be a “dueling menu” without some fun competition. Although I definitely do not speak for everyone, below is a personal score card of each course and how the chefs compared: (see above photo gallery for images of each dish)
Lidia: Astice Quasi Caprese - Lobster with Burrata, Fresh Passion Fruit, Olive Oil, Asparagus, Radish, Cucumber, Carrot, Watercress, Chocolate Brioche and Bitter Chocolate
Mario: Lobster Crudo with Ramps and Meyer Lemon
Verdict: Mario. Simple and delicious.
Lidia: Risotto con Scaffata “Cacio e Pepe” – Risotto with Pea served with Cheese (Peccorino) and Pepper
Mario: Mint and Pea Love Letters with Merguez Sausage
Verdict: Lidia. While Mario’s was surprising and inventive, Lidia’s perfectly cooked risotto won over the taste buds.
Lidia: Fuzi Tradizionali al Ragu de Cortile - Traditional Fuzi Pasta made with Porcini Powder and Ragu of Chicken, Duck, Rabbit, and Guinea Hen.
Mario: Classic Bolognese.
Lidia: Brasato alla Veneziana, Tagliata alla Griglia con Patate e Bietole – Flat Iron Steak with Sautéed Swiss Chard and Potatoes Topped with Wagyu Beef and Crispy Swiss Chard Stems.
Mario: Braised Beef Cheek with Morels and Stinging Nettle Polenta
Verdict: Even Mario admitted that it felt like Lidia cheated by throwing a beautiful piece of wagyu beef on top of her plate which solidified her “win” this round.
Lidia: “Gnocchi de Susine” con Gelato di Bourbon e Prugne
Verdict: Lidia. Bourbon ice cream gave her extra points.