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Esca Chef Buys Restaurant Following Big Sales Drop After Batali Accusations

Dave Pasternack and Vic Rallo closed the Midtown seafood restaurant to revamp

Esca pasta
Kelly Campbell

Esca — the Midtown Italian seafood restaurant opened by Mario Batali — is now in the hands of its executive chef, Dave Pasternack. The Times reports that Pasternack, along with his business partner Victor Rallo, have taken majority ownership of the the nearly 20-year-old restaurant from Joe Bastianich’s company.

The fine dining restaurant apparently took a 30 percent hit in revenue following the December 2017 investigations of Batali’s alleged misconduct, Pasternack told the Times. Many of Esca’s regular customers stopped going because of the celebrity chef’s partnership. Bastianich bought Batali out just this past March.

Now, Pasternack and Rallo — who together own Staten Island restaurants Surf and Barca — have closed Esca to do their own work on the restaurant, located at 402 West 43rd St., near Ninth Avenue. In a few weeks, the dining room will sport some new decor, the wine list will be updated, and the menu will see some adjustments. Signatures such as a sea urchin pasta will remain, but cured meats and more vegetable dishes will join.

Batali and Pasternack opened Esca together in 2000, with a focus on the latter’s obsession with fish. Crudo, though now commonplace in New York, didn’t show up on menus as much before Pasternack served it here. In 2004, the chef won the James Beard Award for best chef in New York City for his work at the restaurant.

Meanwhile, Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group still owns a slew of other restaurants, including Babbo, Lupa, and Del Posto.

Eater has reached out to both Pasternack’s team and Bastianich’s team for more details.


402 West 43rd Street, Manhattan, NY 10036 (212) 564-7272 Visit Website