Late in 2012, Mario Batali first teased local foodies with a Tweet saying he would open a restaurant in Boston “very soon!”
“Soon” turned out to be 2½ years. On Wednesday evening, the famed chef opens his first Boston business, Babbo Pizzeria e Enoteca, at Fan Pier on the South Boston Waterfront. The large open space — 8,700 square feet — features warm yellow, red, and orange tones with rustic oak accents and industrial-style exposed beams.
The menu offers pizzas and small Italian plates at affordable prices, compared to those at Boston restaurants operated by other high-profile figures such as Bar Boulud, run by the New York chef Daniel Boulud. Babbo’s Neapolitan pies include an $8 marinara pizza and a $15 goat cheese pizza with pistachios, red onion, and truffle honey. Babbo has a wood-burning stove that cooks the pizzas for 90 seconds at up to 1,000 degrees.
Small plates vary from $7 fish dishes such as octopus with shishito peppers and citrus to $5 vegetable plates such as cauliflower “alla Siciliana” and a three-cheese tasting for $11.
Larger plates include grilled meats such as the $18 skirt steak with charred onions and pastas priced from $10 to $15. The most expensive plate is a $35 chef’s selection of grilled meats.
The menu also includes Batali’s own gelato and an extensive list of Italian wines.
“This is a place for just about everyone,” Batali said. “It’s simple and not that expensive. It’s as much about the food as it is about the wine.”
Batali is one of the most recognized chefs in the world, a television personality known for award-winning Italian cuisine. He gained attention while cooking in New York in the 1990s and starred in his own show, “Molto Mario,” on the Food Network. The James Beard Foundation named Batali the best chef in New York in 2002 and the best in America three years later. He was honored again in 2008 as restaurateur of the year.
Babbo will be run by general manager Caroline Conrad and chef Mario LaPosta, veterans in Batali’s 25-restaurant empire. Batali said he intends to spend the first two weeks at the restaurant — dressed in shorts and his signature orange Crocs — and then stop in once a month.
Although the name resembles Batali’s high-end Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, which he opened in New York in 1998, the prices and menu are more similar to those at his OTTO Enoteca Pizzeria restaurants in New York and Las Vegas. They are not to be confused with the other Otto, the Portland, Maine, pizzeria with outlets in Harvard Square, Brookline, and Lynn-field.
Batali took umbrage with the Maine Otto team in a scalding Twitter post in 2012. Now he says it’s water under the bridge and blames himself for not protecting his OTTO brand “carefully enough.”
Batali and his B&B Hospitality Group, co-owned by restaurateur Joe Bastianich, originally announced a 2013 opening on Summer Street in Fort Point. But Batali said the deal fell through because the wood-burning brick oven he wanted to build required a hood that vented through the roof. Rights to the roof were held by another tenant.
Last summer, the group said it had signed a new spot at Fan Pier. The developer of the 23-acre project, Joseph F. Fallon, said the restaurant fits in with others in the development: the high-end Italian restaurant Strega, the Asian-fusion establishment Empire, and the American eatery Sam’s at Louis.
“We thought the gourmet pizza and the wines that Mario Batali does are some of the best that we’ve had, and we thought it was a perfect complement to the other restaurants,” Fallon said.
Babbo will open for dinner on Wednesday. Beginning Thursday, it will serve food daily from 11:30 a.m. to 12 a.m. The bar will remain open until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.