One of Mario Batali’s earliest restaurant partners has resigned from the Batali and Bastianich Hospitality Group, Eater has learned.
Jason Denton — who helped Batali and Joe Bastianich open Lupa in 1999 and Otto in 2003 — has resigned from the company. He most recently was director of East Coast operations for B&B, and though he previously was a partner, he hasn’t been for more than a decade, according to a B&B spokesperson.
The restaurateur once helmed a small empire of popular New York Italian restaurants, including ‘Inoteca, and partnered with Batali and Bastianich for both West Village Italian trattoria Lupa and Greenwich Village pizzeria Otto. Denton, 48, says in a statement that he left B&B “to take time with family and focus on the next best step.” A B&B spokesperson says they cannot comment on individual employees.
Denton has had a long history with Batali: In the mid-90s, he was a server at the celebrity chef’s first NYC restaurant Po. He then went on to become a restaurateur in his own right, opening his first restaurant — a small but beloved West Village Italian panini shop called ‘Ino — with his wife Jennifer in 1998.
Shortly after, he partnered with Batali on Lupa and proceeded to open several popular Italian restaurants with his family, including ‘Inoteca, Corsino, Betto, and ‘Inoteca Liquori bar. Many of the restaurants were critically-adored and quite influential. Wine buffs in particular favored them for the combination of solid food and interesting, affordable wine; some credit him with creating the modern wine bar.
But in 2013, Denton filed for bankruptcy, and by 2014, all the restaurants without Batali partnerships were shuttered. That year, he started working full time for B&B.
His departure is the latest management change for B&B, a national company that’s in flux after Batali stepped away from day-to-day operations following sexual misconduct allegations. The chef, who is under investigation by the NYPD for sexual assault claims, remains a financial partner in B&B, though the company is in the process of cutting ties.
“I’ve always loved this group of hard working individuals and have enjoyed working with them through the years,” Denton says in a statement. “While we have seen some great times and more recently tough times, I still believe it’s an incredible company and I wish everybody only the best and many years of future success.”