Mario Batali Might Not Pay Employees but He Loves Vegetarians

So, maybe Batali and Babbo partner Joseph Bastianich didn’t pay their employees. We’ll have to see what happens with the lawsuit. Nonetheless, in an interview with SlashFood, Batali told Allen Salkin all his deepest, darkest secrets. Well, not really, but at least he announced another delay in opening the Flatiron food complex, Eataly.

He wants to live in Rome, and only work three days a week. The Iron Chef doesn’t care what you think about Meatless Mondays in all of his restaurants. “It’s just an awareness thing,” he says. “You just shouldn’t have meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week.” Could have fooled us. There will be a full vegetarian restaurant located in Eataly to appeal to herbivores. And now it’s opening on September 23. Start holding your breath!

5 Reasons Why Food Halls Are Better Than School Cafeterias

1. You’ll never get stuck eating lima beans and cabbage, unless you want to. Everything at the Plaza Food Hall by Todd English is fresh, gourmet, and made in front of you, even the sushi. You have a choice of goodies from Murray’s Cheese or Balthazar bakery, the Ocean Grill or the Dumpling Bar. Rectangular cardboard pizza and meatloaf Tuesdays not on the menu.

2. Long gone are the days of awkwardly scanning the cafeteria for a place to dine in social anonymity. You can get your food to go! Recently inducted Chelsea Market vendors Bar Suzette (for crepes) and People’s Pops (for gourmet popsicles) offer completely portable snacks. This also eliminates the possibility of bullies knocking over your lunch tray and you inhaling your inedible fare in a bathroom stall.

3. No more ex-convicts slapping mashed potatoes on your plate. The new Mario Batali/Joe Bastianich (Del Posto, Esca, Babbo) Flatiron food hall complex, Eataly (opening this fall), is looking for professionals with at least 5 years experience in fields other than hospitality (like finance). Let go of the anxiety of wondering whether those lunch ladies pay attention to the ‘Employees Must Wash Hands’ signs before digging in.

4.You can consume alcohol. As much as you want and/or can afford. Hudson Hall at the Hudson Hotel presents a swank rendition of your typical cafeteria. Perhaps because the masterminds here modeled the joint after an Ivy League Mess Hall (How New England of them), they have versions of the same disgusting concoctions you drank in college (Lynchburg Lemonade, Gin-N-Juice, Lemon Drops) and maybe high school (if you’re from Mississippi) but with quality liquor and less hangover-inducing ingredients.

5. There’s more to explore than the mystery meat. At the church-turned-club-turned-bazaar Limelight Marketplace, there’s a green market, yes, but also a slew of shopping options and a J. Sisters salon. And it looks like a mini-Disney, much better than bologna, I think.

Where Celebs Go Out: Stanley Tucci, Tom Colicchio, Alessandro Nivola

Stanley Tucci at The Luxury Collection Destination Guide Launch with Assouline: I like to go to a lot of different places, but certainly Mario Batali’s restaurants. The beef cheek ravioli at Babbo is so delicious and so incredible. Just about anything he cooks is okay with me. I always stay at the St. Regis, here in New York. ● Rosie Perez: I love Gino’s in Bay Ridge. The arroz con gandule at Luz in Brooklyn is a favorite, and the roasted chicken is the best deal in town. Here in the city, Dok Suni’s for Korean barbeque, at First Avenue and 7th Street.

Alessandro Nivola: Sunny’s, a bar in Red Hook, which has bluegrass bands on some nights. It’s where they filmed On the Waterfront. And a restaurant called The Good Fork in the same neighborhood. The Red Hook Bait and Tackle is a bar that’s seedier than Sunny’s. In Boerum Hill, there’s a great place called Mile End, a hip, Jewish deli. They smoke their own meats and have this incredible beef brisket. ● Estelle: Avenue and SL, I love ’em both. ● Krysten Ritter: I love Brooklyn Bowl. Kenmare is a fun place to go. Aurora in Williamsburg on Grand Street has a wonderful, little beet salad with hazelnuts. ● Timo Weiland: I love to go to Norwood and Gramercy Park Hotel. Sugarland in Brooklyn, so much fun. It’s off-the-beaten path, but a wild dance party. ● Daniel Boulud at the James Beard Awards: Right now, DBGB these days, because it’s one that keeps me the most busy. I like Marea, Le Bernardin, Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn. ● Tom Colicchio: I live in the West Village, so I, often, go to Barbuto or Spotted Pig, ’cause they’re in walking distance. The food’s all good. I try different things all the time, so I don’t go back and try the same thing over and over. ● Wylie Dufresne: We like to go to PDT for a cocktail late at night or some tater tots. 15 East is a favorite. We just came from the new Terroir in Tribeca that was great. DBGB just opened up in our neighborhood. The hundred-layer lasagne at Del Posto was pretty special. ● David Burke: Corton was great. From the Garden is a favorite dish there. ● Michael Oher at Big Brothers Big Sisters Sidewalks of New York gala: I live in Baltimore. I love seafood, so anything on the Inner Harbor. The Cheesecake Factory is there. At PF Changs, I get the shrimp-and-chicken fried rice. ● Sebastian Copeland at Pepcom for the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Into the Cold: My favorite sushi is in the Valley at Nozawa, which is a place that Spielberg goes to and tried to have Mr. Nozawa open a restaurant in New York. He serves you the food, so you can’t ask for what you want. He kicked out Cherlize Theron one time. He’s known as the “Sushi Nazi.” ● Miranda Cosgrove at Sony Music luncheon celebrating the release of her debut album, Sparks Fly: I go to Mozza in L.A. It’s like a pizza place. They have squash blossoms and really, good margherita pizza. Hungry Cat, on Sunset, has the best dessert. It’s like a chocolate souflee. ● Phil Ramone at opening night of Million Dollar Quartet on Broadway: Bravo Gianni’s on the east side. Sardi’s because I want to feel the history, and they have a good wine list.

Where Celebs Go Out: Ed Norton, Tim Blake Nelson, Steve Earle

At the Leaves of Grass premiere: 1. Ed Norton: “Blue Hill — anything at Blue Hill. I like this little joint in the East Village called Joe Doe.” 2. Steve Earle: “Babbo is every bit as good as it’s cracked up to be. And A.O.C. is a favorite of ours, which is a French restaurant on Bleecker Street. The duck confit at A.O.C. is the best in the city.”

3. Allison Moorer: “We’ve been doing this like go out to dinner a lot lately, so we won’t think about, ‘When is the baby going to come?’ So we went to Union Square Café last night, which is fantastic. I’m vegetarian. I had this incredible ricotta gnocchi, which I think is a regular item on the menu.We just went to Babbo Monday night, which is great. Our neighborhood is ridiculously good for food.” 4. Josh Pais: “One of my favorite restaurants is called Westville. It’s on West 10th Street, between Bleecker and West 4th. The guy, Jay, is the owner. He’s a good friend of mine. It’s like so well priced. They have the best burger in the city. I’m not kidding. I am not kidding. The food is so fresh. It’s a great place.” 5. Lucy DeVito: “I really like Gobo which is on Sixth Avenue. It’s a vegetarian place. I like Milos. It’s like uptown. It’s Greek food, really nice fish, and I love feta cheese and the fresh vegetables and everything. What else? Oh, Frankies. I live in Brooklyn, so I go to Frankies. It’s on Court Street, and it’s really good Italian food. It’s so good.” 6. Melanie Lynskey: “I really got obsessed with that restaurant, Quality Meats, on 58th Street. It’s super good. I only eat fish. I don’t eat meat, so I don’t know why I love it so much. They have this amazing halibut there, and they have this crazy thing which is like a brulee’d corn dish, which is the most delicious thing you’ve ever eaten in your life.” 7. Tim Blake Nelson: “I like Nicola’s, and Medeo in L.A.”

At the Man-O-Manischewitz Cook-Off: 8. Jacques Pepin: “From the French Culinary Institute in New York, because it’s one of the greatest values, to Daniel’s new restaurant in Houston — I forget the name. The menu of the students at the French Culinary Institute is the best and quite inexpensive. Everything has to be fresh, morning and night. The morning crew and the night crew can’t use the same stock. We may have the best bread in New York — short of being in Paris, the best baguettes. Go there. They’ll give you one. DBGB has different sausage and peasant food — it’s a great spot. From this to the Union League Cafe in New Haven. I live in Connecticut. One of the best restaurants in Connecticut — that goes to Clam Castle in Madison, Connecticut, where you get the lobster roll — one of those joints on the road.”

Where Celebs Go Out: Hugh Jackman, Parker Posey, Reshma Shetty

At the premiere of City Island:

● ANDY GARCIA – “In New York there are so many great restaurants. There’s an old one I’ve gone here for many years that I like to visit, just out of nostalgia. It’s a very good restaurant. It’s called Il Vagabondo. It has a bocce court in it. It’s just a very picturesque place; very, good food. Cipriani’s. There’s a new one called Nino’s. Scalinatella — a lot of Italian restaurants, you can tell. I always pop my head into Victor’s Cafe. And then, I’ve got to have a Gray’s Papaya hot dog here.” Any plans to visit Cuba? “Oh, I dream about visiting Cuba every day. But some people have to leave there first.” ● HUGH JACKMAN – “I’m a real junkie for Jean-Georges Vongerichten. I love his cooking. I just went to his place up in The Mark, and I was lucky enough to go to his new restaurant down at ABC Carpet and Home — all organic, every ingredient’s within an 100-mile radius. The food is just unbelievable there, so … Any special dish? Chicken. He told me his secret: brine. You got to brine your chicken.” ● VERA WANG –“I like Morimoto, and I like Bar Masa, and I love the new Mark Hotel, and Sant Ambroeus, uptown and downtown, Mr. Chow’s. I go out to eat a lot — you can tell.”

● SANDRA BERNHARD – “I love Cookshop, which is downtown. I love BLT Fish, one of my favorite restaurants. Babbo. Of course, I love 2nd Avenue Deli. I’m very into trying to eat locally, sustainably grown food. I’m doing more and more cooking at home because of my daughter. And I’ve always eaten very balanced and healthy, but, to me, it’s about really preserving the environment, as well.” ● ZOE KRAVITZ –Five Leaves in Brooklyn, in Greenpoint. Delicious.” ● PARKER POSEY – “I’m trying to give a good recommendation for something. Mary’s Fish Camp.” ● DOMINIK GARCIA-LORIDO – “Oh, wow! I’m, like, so not a club person anymore. I’m pretty much a homebody. I live in L.A., so … I like more dive bars and chill spots where you can hear good music. I don’t like really sceney places. I don’t like where you have to dress up. I’m more, have a beer and chill; watch a game. I have to give a shout-out to the guy I work for, as a waitress. I still work there. It’s a lounge in Studio City, California, called Next Door Tapas. It’s attached to an Italian restaurant, La Loggia. It’s a really chill, tapas bar in the Valley. It’s got good drinks and good food.” ● STEVEN STRAIT –The Smile on Bond Street — really, really cool place; a little coffee shop that’s got great food, great coffee; really relaxed, cool place. I grew up here, but I don’t live here anymore. I love staying at the Chelsea Hotel. It’s got so much character; really, amazing history; inspiring place. It’s really kept to its roots. The city’s expanded around it. It’s really held firm. I appreciate that.” ● RESHMA SHETTY – “My favorite restaurant, at the moment, is Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar. I love that place. Bar-wise, the Russian Vodka Room does a mean apple martini. And they have a fabulous happy hour: $5, 4-6.” ● GRAHAM PHILLIPS – “One thing that’s been fun is that I’ve noticed is that all the best pizzerias are in Brooklyn, and I used to never really go to Brooklyn, but now that the show [The Good Wife] films in Brooklyn, I’ve been going to all these pizzerias. I have a list on my phone. Someone sent it to me. I’ve just been trying to check ’em all off my list. Joe’s Pizza, Bleecker and Carmine, unbelievable! Di Fara, Brooklyn, Avenue J — I tried that. That was unbelievable! I also tried Grimaldi’s. And they were all unbelievable. They’re all in the same genre of this authentic New York pizza, but they all have their little twist to it.”

Industry Insiders: Jim Lahey, Bread Master

Jim Lahey is a bread man. After a trip to Italy while he was in art school studying to be a sculptor, Lahey realized that baking was his true calling. In 1994, he opened Sullivan Street Bakery, which now provides bread for over 250 of the city’s best restaurants including Jean Georges, Babbo and Gramercy Tavern. In 2008, Lahey opened his first restaurant, Co., where he turned his signature bread into artisanal pizzas. Famous for his no-knead method, Lahey is trying to spread the word with his recently published book, My Bread, as well a more personal approach: baking lessons at Sullivan Street Bakery. Over lunch at Co., the loquacious baker with “major A.D.D.” spoke with me about the importance of good reviews, culinary influences, and his idea of the most bitter, foul taste in food: effort.

Point of Origin: I ended up going to art school (School of Visual Arts) and developed a fascination with Europe. A really great teacher at the time said, “Dude you’re too smart to be a dumb fucking painter and your interests are too varied for you to be in this school. You also need to get laid. Go to college.” So basically that’s what I did. I went to college to interact with normal people as opposed to art students who tend to be trust fund kids and shit. I went to Stony Brook in Long Island. Probably not the best place for me to go. I dropped out, when back to SVA. Then I got kicked out of SVA.

On the difference between running a bakery versus a restaurant: One is moving parts. In a wholesale operation there are many moving parts, many more people involved in getting the thing to the customer. The other thing is it’s more glamorous to work in a restaurant than a wholesale operation. Restaurant have a fantastic cast of characters, but there’s a bit more glamor especially right now with the celebrification of chefs and renewed interest in cooking. Restaurants are very similar in a way because I find that as a chef I’m constantly battling with the ideas of what the worker has, of what the part is, even if it’s explained to them.

Favorite pizza: Right now, it’s the honshimeji and guanciale. As an eater, all we care about is the results, we don’t care about the effort because we don’t see the effort and hopefully we don’t taste the effort. There is no flavor more bitter or foul than effort. If I taste effort in food wherever I eat, I rarely ever return.

Where the meat and potatoes come from: The meats we get from Pat Lefrieda, phenomenal supplier. Very high quality, high standards. We try to buy as much of our vegetables from the Union Square farmers market or local farms if possible. Right now it’s obviously really difficult because it’s so cold and we get our nuts and bolts from very small wholesale suppliers.

On the importance of reviews: The most important review is watching the plates go back empty. Seeing that there is a local, loyal clientele that own the restaurant and embrace the culture of the restaurant.

On being called the David Chang of carbs: That’s flattering. I don’t know if I’ll be able to undo the damage that Atkins did to the world with bread and this phobia, this misguided phobia, that Americans have about carbs. Really at the end of the day, if you’re physically active, eat as you want. I’m flattered; it’s a really nice thing to say. David’s a phenomenal chef. I wish I was allowed to curse more in my book, but my editor killed my voice. I think we’d be compared more. I haven’t read the Momofuku book but I heard there’s a lot of fuck and shit in it.

On the haters: Because of the way the pizza industry is set up and also because of our culture about it and how we’ve been introduced to it, what our expectations are, there are a lot of people who have become “Company haters,” “Co. haters.” I wasn’t trying to dumb it down for them. I wasn’t trying to put tons of cheese and tons of sauce on. I want out product to have its own signature, its own pedigree.

How to get the perfect recipe: I like, for myself, to develop recipes with two approaches. One approach is to make an absolutely mistake just to eliminate that from the realm of possibilities. The other thing I like doing is relying on the sort of vast, kind of technical, acquired sense about what things weigh and what ratios you can get away with to make things work and just make things on the fly. I love cooking without recipes. But I have to say when you make something good and you don’t record it you have to go back and scramble to find that harmony. Sometimes you can nail things so perfectly it’s funny.

Favorite chefs: Obviously I mentioned David Chang. Of course I love Jean George. He’s very inspirational. I love his restraint, executing very complicating things but holding back. I don’t taste effort at that restaurant.

Go-to restaurants: I like Bar Pitti, though they don’t buy my bread anymore. I really like Grand Sichuan. I really like Five Points. Any restaurant that Michael White has cheffed in. I think he’s a leader in that pack. I love I Sodi on Christopher Street. I haven’t been in a long time but I did have a religious lasagna experience there. I haven’t been to Eleven Madison Park, but I hear it’s amazing. And Txikito.

Best slice in the city? I have a very hard time answering that question. You know, I respect what everyone does. My favorite pizza restaurant in the United States besides my own is Pizzaria Bianco in Phoenix. It’s the only one.

Daily routine, breakfast: An egg white sandwich. Or egg white over oatmeal. Or egg white sandwich on whole wheat toast. No butter, no cheese.

Secrets he left out of My Bread: Here’s the thing. There are other books that recount the no-knead process. The publishing industry saw an opportunity to make money for this not based on their interest to change culture, but their own personal profit and gain. This is the American way. This is the land of Madoff. This is our society. I don’t really think any of those books do justice to the process. I think, again, there’s this tendency to dumb things down. I had to fight for the content that the book has.

Industry Insiders: Kimberly Burns, Literary Maven

Sometimes the person who handles the publicity gets to be as noteworthy as the clients she peddles to the public. Enter Kimberly Burns, literary publicist extraordinaire. Mention her name at any literary event or in the hallway of any publishing house and writers cower behind their spectacles — they know getting her to hype their book could land them a coveted spot on the New York Times Bestseller list. In an era when hard copy has evaporated into thin air and settled onto the digital screen like thick condensation, rest assured Burns will make sure that the written word stays in your face.

(‘DiggThis’)How do you go about making a piece of literature something the world wants to know about? I don’t, the authors do, so my job is easy. I’m in the extremely lucky position that I only work with really good writers. They write a good book and all I have to do is call people who I think would be interested and tell them about it. What an easy gig. How’d you get into it? During grad school I was working in a bookstore at night and I realized, “Wow, I enjoy working in the bookstore more than I do anything else.” I starting running an author series at a bookstore in San Francisco. I moved to LA and started to work in film production, which paid a lot of money, but it felt like my brain was turning to mush. So, I called a friend at Knopf’s West Coast office and asked for a job. I loved doing book publicity so I moved to New York to work at Random House. I was a publicist at Random House, Pantheon and the Penguin Press before I set up my own shop in 2003. Who were some of the most exciting authors you represented when you worked at Random House? This is going back a few but Zadie Smith for her book White Teeth because she was at the beginning of a career and you knew it was going to be big. Adam Gopnik for Paris to the Moon, which is one of my favorite books I’ve ever read. He is such a maverick writer and that was his first book. Another one was Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald who was with a smaller publisher before going to Random House. This was going to be his big book and it was, then he died in a car crash two months after it came out, so I feel incredibly lucky to have known him and to have helped turn readers on to his books. What about independently? I work for the PEN American Center, which supports writers and is the world’s oldest literary and human rights organization. They are vigorous in their support of freedom of speech and just genuinely awesome people. I help them with their annual World Voices Festival, which brings 160 writers from around the world to New York, so it’s a great opportunity to see how the world thinks. I worked with Salman Rushdie on his last novel, The Enchantress of Florence. A.M Homes wrote a memoir about being adopted called the The Mistress’s DaughterHardball by Sara Paretsky. How do new writers make it today? It is a very difficult time. I know I sound old school saying this but I think the bookstores and the booksellers really matter. They’re on the frontlines. You go into a bookstore and ask what you should read and the independent booksellers will find you something you love that might actually change your life. I also think word of mouth. That’s what happened with Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love. It got a great front-page review by Jennifer Egan in the New York Times Book Review and everybody in the industry and all the literary people were excited, but my understanding is that when women started recommending it to their friends is when it really took off. And then of course, Oprah didn’t hurt. Any big projects coming up? I’m working on a debut novel that will come out in June called The More I Owe You which is about Elizabeth Bishop’s years in Brazil. She went to Brazil for a two-week vacation, fell in love with a woman and ended up staying 17 years. The story is amazing and the writer just writes beautifully. I’m also working on New Yorker writer Marisa Silver’s new collection of short stories. The Story Prize, which celebrates the year’s best collection of short stories, is an upcoming event I’m doing the PR for. The PEN World Voices Festival again this year. And, get this, I just signed on with Natalie Merchant – her new album is free domain poetry she’s set to music. It’s her first album in seven years and the music PR people will take care of her but I’m going to try to help get attention in literary circles. Books that annoy you? What really bums me out is stuff like Sarah Palin’s book. A huge seller like that could have created the opportunity to draw people into bookstores, where they’d hopefully find other books actually worth reading, but then Amazon and Wal-Mart discount it so severely. Why would you go into a bookstore to get it? The other thing that bothers me is that it’s a product. She didn’t even write it. I bet she hasn’t even read it. It’s all that kind of bullshit publishing that really bums me out, makes a lot of noise, and takes attention that could go to read books. I’m also beyond bored with all the talk about E-readers. It’s just another format to read something in. What is inside the books or what is downloaded onto an E reader — that is the important thing to me. In the end I think all people really want is a good story that’s well told. Go-to places in New York? Sant Ambroeus or Soba-Ya for lunch. John the maitre d’ at Babbo is a big reader so I love it there. Commerce and Pearl Oyster Bar and I love Giorgione in SoHo.

Photo: Richard Koek

Industry Insiders: Jeff Zalaznick, Private Eye

Jeff Zalaznick transitioned his career from mergers & acquisitions to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The editor-in-chief of AlwaysHungryNY.com and founder of DinePrivate.com was once a J.P. Morgan employee before finding his passion and his business partner, famed restaurateur Joe Bastianich. The native New Yorker talks about his newest online accommodation for private dining.

How was Always Hungry born? I started Always Hungry after a career in investment banking and finance and realized that food and restaurants were where my passion lay. I felt that at the time there was a huge gap in online sites that were focusing on not only the best technology for restaurant search engines — which Always Hungry has in terms of finding where to eat and what to eat when you get there — but also food-focused content. So that’s how Always Hungry was born. Always Hungry launched about a year ago.

And Dine Private was conceived from that? I was sitting at ‘inoteca with Joe Bastianich (Babbo, Spotted Pig), and he started talking about a way to sell private dining online. We started discussing the fact there was clearly a gap in the market. Private dining didn’t have an efficient sales channel. And basically a year later, we’re here. Dine Private was born out of that conversation and a lot of work in between. Always Hungry launched a year ago; I started working on it two years ago. Around the same time that I was launching Always Hungry, I started discussing Dine Private. It was launched in September.

Is there a subscription fee for Dine Private? No. Dine Private is free for the consumer, so for the customer or anyone in the business of planning events, anyone that goes to our website, it’s totally free. The goal of Dine Private is to offer the best pricing. This happens because restaurants have begun to price their rooms more competitively because they’re selling them against one another through our site. In terms of the cost to the restaurant, the restaurant pays a subscription fee and a booking commission.

How many restaurants do you have now in your database? When we launched, we chose a highly qualified group of people that we thought would be great partners in launching the site, and who could help us create the best product possible. We launched with a group of 14 restaurants that included all the BLT restaurants, the Craft restaurants, Daniel, and Babbo and Del Posto. Since then we’ve had this unbelievable response from the restaurants themselves. We’ve been inundated with requests, and at this point we’re probably signing between two and three a week. Right now we’re trying to get as many as we can and get them online so they can start booking private dining as quickly as possible.

Is Dine Private targeted towards smaller groups as well, for say, a birthday party? This is for anyone looking to plan any sort of event. From huge 200-person parties to a birthday dinner with no more than 12 people. We take over where the restaurant says, “Hold on, let me transfer you.” Whether that number is 8 people, 10 people, or 12 people, every restaurant has a threshold where you move from being a normal dinner reservation to being considered private dining or group dining. Now that person can go on Dine Private and immediately see what’s available on a certain day for a specific amount of people. That saves a lot of time. And you can do that for a party of 8 or a party of 300 people.

Are the price minimums negotiable? The whole idea is that the price that you get through us is almost the post-negotiation price because what we’ve done is create a way for the restaurant to price their room more efficiently. We hope that this creates an efficient marketplace. The goal is to save people money. For years, the private dining business was very opportunistic — they would size you up and see what kind of price they could get out of you. Now they realize that it is their benefit to be up-front with their pricing because they get better responses from their customers.

How has the customer reaction been so far? The customer reaction has been incredible. For anyone in the business of planning events, this is kind of the answer to their prayers; such an immense time saver. Instead of having to call a variety of venues to check on availability and pricing, they can get real time availability using our search engine in a matter of seconds.

What are the stipulations for the restaurants you feature? We chose the group that we chose to launch the site based on people that we thought were, in terms of their private dining practices, somewhat diverse, but were also set up to work through this and perfect the product with us. It’s not meant to seem like those are the only places we’re working with. Right now we’re working on signing up everyone from 20-person restaurants in the LES to different Mexican, Chinese, and Japanese restaurants — really all over the place at a variety of different price points. For us, all you need to have to be on Dine Private is a private room or real estate that you’re able to have a private event.

How are you marketing the site? Right now we’re working with a lot of people in the events business, whether it’s from concierge services to people that work within the big banks or law firms on the admin side to help plan events. We’re directly targeting them and their consumer through a variety of consumer benefit systems, and we’re also going to do some special events.

Are you still working day-to-day on Always Hungry? Now I run Dine Private on a day-to-day basis, but I still do Always Hungry and oversee everything there. Right now I have both.

Do you ever get any criticism on the top five lists? We don’t get too much criticism, but I definitely get emails all the time about it. It’s definitely something people love to discuss and argue over. It brings up great conversations and sometimes someone will bring something out of left field that changes my opinion.

And then will you edit the list? No. Once the lists are done — they’re done. But we’re always trying to do new ones to make them more and more accurate.

How many nights a week do you eat out? Seven. And most lunches, too. I’m lucky enough for it to be my business, so a lot of time it’s business related, but I would be doing it regardless.

What are your go-to spots? I have a different favorite for everything. For Italian I love Michael White at Marea, I could have the octopus and bone marrow pasta anytime. I love Del Posto, I love what they’re doing at Locanda Verde. For Chinese, I love Chinatown Brasserie.

Where do you go out after dinner? Recently I’ve been going to the Boom Boom Room. When I’m not there, sometimes I go to Southside, Avenue, places like that.

The Things We Do For Love: New York’s Top Date Spots

To some, love is motivated by how fat one’s pocketbook is. To others, it’s based on where one is able to get a reservation at peak time on a Friday night. Excite your summer love with these unabashedly romantic restaurants — incredibly sexy date spots, dripping with intimacy, dishes that arouse the senses, good lighting, or otherwise just priced to impress. For more inspiration of the culinary sort (inspiration of the other sort may be too, uh, inspirational for this site), check out Restaurants in the guides and choose the Romantic/Date Spot vibe.

Casa la Femme (West Village) – Former downtown romantic gone uptown returns to camp out in the West Vil. The softest of soft lighting, plush seating, and intricately detailed decor set the mood; signature fig martinis and French Kiss cocktails spell romance; the hip-swiveling belly dancers spell something else, but it’s all sexy. ● The Bourgeois Pig (East Village) – A dark, red room that’s a perfect post-dinner spot when things are going well, or a date spot to pull out all the stops. The fondue makes things romantic for him and her, because let’s face it; dip-able things are sexy as hell.

August (West Village) – Raw bar for those that still hang on to those aphrodisiac superstitions; comfort food for a cozy atmosphere. Sweet nothings will have to be whispered quietly, as this place is tiny. Size in this case is just an excuse to get closer. Hold hands in the romantic garden and cherish the moment — September will be here before you know it. ● Babbo (Greenwich Village) – The only dirty talk you’ll need here is “Baby, this is Mario Batali’s place,” and “I pulled strings to get a res here on short notice.” If this isn’t enough to set the mood, then the fact that you’re sandwiched between a former mayor and Gwyneth Paltrow should do the trick. The food, of course, stands on its own as reason enough to bring your summer lover by. ● One If By Land Two If By Sea (West Village) – Whenever I poll the office on where I should take my date for a romantic evening, the unanimous cry is this place. Aaron Burr’s haunted carriage house is true romance: flowers, firelight, and a piano that plays the lilting soundtrack to your dream date. Get engaged here if you think you might need some persuasion. Fall in love here by accident. ● JoJo (Upper East Side) – For those of you buying Vineyard Vines for him, and pearls for her, here is your classic UES date spot. Slightly stuffy but enduring townhouse romancer. Love, Franco-American style. Conclude with infamous warm spicy Valrhona chocolate cake. Sex to follow. ● Capsouto Freres (Tribeca) – Long-running French romantic will get you laid. But it’s not about that, it’s about romance and the presentation — the candles, tablecloths, quiet corners, and booze make the perfect ambiance to get you feeling romantical. The French know romance, and the exceptional desserts and the extensive wine list add to the way you’re looking at your other half. ● barmarché (Nolita) – Relaxing go-to brunch spot. Because honestly, brunch done right is one of the most romantic things. Subdued, rendezvous lighting. Wear his button up belted as a dress and enjoy the Barmarche Cuban Burger. The New Old American cuisine and the sight of you with bed head makes the Saturday brunch rush worth the wait. ● Relish (Williamsburg) – Cute place for young love — perhaps you might not perceive this classic diner as a place where romance blossoms at first sight, but give the outdoor patio five minutes, and suddenly you have found “your” place. But really, nothing says romance like sangria. In pint glasses. ● Dressler (Williamsburg) – Food to die for, and just enough off the beaten path to call it your own. The mirror/light/candle combo works magic, the food is above par and quite impressive for foodies, and the dark and stormys will take care of the details.