Turf warfare! New York-based restaurateur and celebrity chef Mario Batali is coming to Boston. His B&B Hospitality Group just announced plans to open Babbo Pizzeria at Fan Pier this winter. (As we know, that probably means late spring, but they’ll find that out soon enough. Welcome to the land of restaurant red tape.)
Let the whining begin: We don’t need another pizza place. Celebrity chefs are absentee chefs. What does a New Yorker know from Boston?
And the counter-snark: The Boston restaurant scene is moribund and imitative. Only hicks get worked up over celebrity pizza. New York is so way, way much greater. Anything they can do, we can do better.
These arguments are both predictable and outdated. New York is a huge city, a hub of business and immigration. It offers high-end dining on a scale Boston can’t sustain and affordable restaurants serving specialties from every last niche of the world. But when it comes to midrange dining, the type of restaurant many think of when they think “Let’s go out to dinner,” the two cities are peers, the borders increasingly porous.
Batali is the first chef of his stature to set up shop in Boston. That’s worth getting excited about. Babbo Pizzeria is a vote of confidence in our viability as a restaurant city, and as a place where there is money to be made. He won’t be the last. Daniel Boulud — every bit as acclaimed as Batali, if not quite as visible (those orange Crocs!) — is bringing Bar Boulud to the Mandarin Oriental. It’s slated to open this fall. These restaurants enhance Boston’s profile. Let’s hope they are more successful than Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s W hotel restaurant Market, which closed late last year.
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