Last month, when celebrity chef Mario Batali settled two lawsuits brought by two Boston women who said he touched them publicly in 2017, it looked as if the long string of allegations against him had come to fruition.
Investigations by the New York Police Department into three possible sexual assault incidents did not result in criminal charges. In a 2021 settlement mediated by the New York state attorney general, Batali and his former business partner Joe Bastianich agreed to pay a $600,000 settlement to more than 20 employees who were sexually harassed at their restaurants.
Now, in a new documentary, one of these women is publicly identifying herself and providing a detailed account of what she has described as sexual assault by Mr. Batali. Eva de Vergilis, 43, worked at his flagship restaurant, Papo, in Greenwich Village. She says that in 2005, after Mr. Batali invited her to an intimate dinner at Spotted Pig, a nearby catering bar where he was a regular investor, she was assaulted unconscious and woke up the next morning on the restaurant floor. Restaurant dining room.
The hospital report the next day, which Ms. DeVerglis shared this week with the New York Times, showed that she had bruised ribs and multiple scrapes, and that she had told doctors she believed she had been sexually assaulted and may have been drugged.
Batali: The Fall of a Superstar Chef tells how Mr. Batali’s standing as a star chef has protected him for years, even though his pattern of sexual harassment of women was well known. The show will premiere on Thursday on Discovery+. It is based in part on reports in The Times, and includes interviews with the two journalists who wrote this article.
Ms DeVirgilis told part of her story in the ’60 Minutes’ segment in 2018, but without revealing her identity, with her face veiled. After the clip aired, she was contacted by the New York Police, who were investigating possible sexual misconduct by Mr. Batali. But Ms DeVirgilis says she was not prepared at the time to file a police report or make it public.
Neither Mr. Batali nor his lawyer responded to requests for comment. The film’s director, Singili Agnew, said she contacted them several times during the preparation of the documentary, and they did not respond.
In an interview with this article, Ms. DeVirgilis said she had been working full time at Babbo for a year at the time of the accident, managing reservations during the day and hosting at night. Her father, who loved to cook and was a fan of Mr. Batali, was very happy. As an aspiring actress, she was excited to work at a place where Gwyneth Paltrow and the cast of “The Sopranos” were regulars. She was 26, she had just appeared on “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” and said, “I was getting close to where I wanted to be.”
She said she had heard Mr. Batali making lewd jokes and commenting on women’s bodies in the restaurant, but she was not afraid of him. “I was very naive,” she said. “I knew I wouldn’t walk through Central Park at night or be alone in a stairwell. I didn’t know I should be afraid of a millionaire celebrity head in a public place.”
The spotted pig was a celebrity, and Mr. Batali would often wrap up his night there, partying with friends and staff in a private room upstairs. On June 3, 2005, Ms. DeVirgilis said, when he arrived at Babbo where it was closing and issued the staff a blanket call for the spotted pig, she was excited to join in. “I thought I’d have a drink or two with the group, get on the subway and go home,” she said.
When she went out to Waverly Place, she said, she was alarmed to find Mr. Batali waiting for her alone, with a limousine and a bottle of Prosecco. At the Spotted Pig, the two were moved from the crowded bar to a candlelit banquet in the VIP room, she said. “He was married. It wasn’t what I thought at all,” she said.
She said her glass of wine kept refilling, and when she began to feel ecstatic, she tried to finish the night, and told Mr. Batali that she should be at Babu at ten o’clock the next morning, she said, and Mr. Batali said to her: Forget work.
The next time she was fully conscious, she said, she was lying alone on a rough wooden floor with scratches on her legs and side, and what looked like semen on her skirt. She said it was early morning, and she had been unconscious for at least five hours. She says she remembered that Mr. Batali kissed her hard while holding her in his lap; She remembered throwing up in the toilet as he hovered behind her.
She said, assuming she was in Mr. Batali’s apartment, she opened the door and realized she had been in the restaurant all night. “Looking back,” she said, “that was the most chilling moment,” she understood that, whatever happened, he didn’t wait for her to wake up or make sure she was safe. (Later, reports in The Times showed that several women had been sexually harassed in that room, including female restaurant staff. Like Mr. Batali, the attorney general found that the owner, Ken Friedman, had encouraged a pattern of workplace harassment. , fined, and the restaurant closed in 2020.)
I went home and then to work. When Mr. Batali called, as usual, she said she had asked what had happened the night before; He briefly told her to put it in the kitchen.
Later that day, she called the rape crisis hotline and met with a counselor at Mount Sinai Hospital, where doctors gave her a rape kit bag, put her clothes in bags, and gave her doses of oral contraceptives, AZT and antibiotics, according to a hospital report. She said a nurse told her it looked as if someone had opened her legs.
The report noted, “She informed the patient that she is not clear in following up on the police report because her boss is a strong person who can blacklist her from the industry.” She says she was told that she did not file a report, the rape kit could not be handed over to the police for processing or analysis. (In New York state, hospitals do not report sexual assaults on adults to police unless the victim agrees.)
Instead, de Vergilis said she gave a month’s notice and quit Papo and the restaurant business. She worked as a makeup artist, and her interactions with the women in her chair evolved into a one-woman show and worked as an activist and empowerment speaker.
But she did not report the attack to the police. “The irony is that even though I’ve been doing this work for 10 years, I’ve taken this long to tell my story,” she said. “That’s how difficult it is.”
Ms DeVirgilis said she could not comment on whether she had changed her mind about going to the police. The Police Department and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office declined to say whether they had reopened the investigation into the Daverglais assault.
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