An Italian-American whose humble beginnings included a job as dishwasher in a Brunswick, New Jersey restaurant eloquently called “Stuff Yer Face”, and pizza man during his college years at Rutgers University, where he read Spanish Theatre. Mario then moved to Europe where he learned more about his craft at the Cordon Bleu in London, and an apprenticeship later on with London’s legendary chef Marco Pierre White, followed by more intensive training in the tiny village of Borgo Capanne in Northern Italy.
With his roots now firmly in Italian cooking, Mario, together with partner, Joe Bastianich, opened his flagship restaurant, Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, 1998 to rave reviews. Babbo was awarded “The Best New Restaurant of 1998” by The James Beard Foundation, and Ruth Reichl at the New York Times bestowed it with three stars.
More successful Italian restaurants followed, with Roman-style trattoria Lupa in 1999; Esca, a southern Italian seafood trattoria, in New York’s Theater District in 2000; and Otto Enoteca Pizzeria (serving pizza, pasta, house-cured salami, vegetables, and 600 wines), located near historic Washington Square Park, as well as the wine shop “Italian Wine Merchants”.
In late 2003, Mario decided to delve into Spanish cuisine, with Spanish-style taverna Casa Mono and the adjacent tapas bar, Bar Jamon featuring wonderful Spanish cheeses, hams, wines and small plate specialties. Next was Bistro du Vent in 2004, whose concept was southern French comfort food and a wine bar (with over 300 wine selections). In 2005, the unstoppable team opened Del Posto, in the Meat Packing district, together with Joe’s mother, Lidia Maticchio Bastianich.
On television, Mario is indeed a very familiar face around the world, because of countless appearances on news and talk shows, and of course his own shows on the Food Network, Molto Mario, Mario Eats Italy, and Ciao America!. As for awards, Mario’s list of accolades has been growing, the latest one being the national award “All-Clad Cookware Outstanding Chef Award” from the James Beard Foundation in 2005.
Mario currently makes his home in New York with his wife Susi Cahn (daughter of Miles and Lillian Cahn, founders of Coach Leather) and their two sons, Leo and Benno.