Mario Batali is returning to the industry he walked away from a half-decade ago, after allegations of sexual misconduct led him to divest from the Eataly empire and the Manhattan restaurant group he founded with restaurateurs Joe and Lidia Bastianich.
In a liquor license application filed this month, Batali is listed as an applicant for Common Good Bakery, a two-location business located in Traverse City, Michigan. Jason Gollan, who founded the bakery with his wife Linda Gollan, confirmed Batali’s involvement, referring to the chef as “an owner, a minority investor, a neighbor, and a friend.”
It’s Batali’s first reported investment in a new restaurant since he was accused of sexual misconduct in 2017. Batali divested from Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, a portfolio that included Del Posto, Babbo, Lupa, Felidia, and other Manhattan restaurants, in 2019, and sold his minority stake in Eataly the same year. Batali was also an investor in the Spotted Pig, the West Village gastropub from Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield that closed in 2020.
The partnership between Batali and Common Good surfaced in a liquor license application for a second location of the bakery that opened at 1115 East Eighth Street this week.
“We plan to leverage our partnership with celebrity chef Mario Batali and launch a series of events designed to tackle the problem of food insecurity in northern Michigan,” the Gollans wrote in an application put before Traverse City commissioners on January 3. “Each event will feature a nationally known celebrity chef, with whom we will create a once-in-a-lifetime culinary event and raise tens of thousands of dollars to fight hunger.”
Gollan, a 20-year veteran of the restaurant industry, opened the first location of Common Good in 2017. He says that Batali is a regular at the bakery and offered his support. “I decided to work against this cynicism and fear that’s everywhere,” Gollan says, pointing out the “wokes from Oberlin,” a liberal arts college in Ohio known for student activism.
According to Gollan, northern Michigan has gotten some national recognition for its wines. “But the food scene is just beginning,” he says. “I’m trying to put this town on the map and our wine on the map.” This week marked the reopening of his original location following renovations in addition to the opening of his second; the bakery is also segueing to include dinner service.
Batali and his wife Susi Cahn own an estate in Northport, a half-hour outside of the north Michigan county where Common Good is located, and the chef is an outspoken fan of the region. He previously said that “Michigan is the America I always thought existed,” while Traverse City is included on his 2016 list of top food destinations in the country. Prior to the misconduct allegations, Batali was slated to host a television show based out of the northern Michigan resort town and was rumored to be involved in the development of a restaurant in the region.
The partnership comes less than two years after Batali and business partner Joe Bastianich agreed to pay $600,000 to at least 20 of their former employees as part of a settlement in a state investigation that found the restaurateurs violated state and city human rights laws at their restaurants.
The New York Police Department has investigated three sexual assault complaints against Batali but those cases were later closed due to expiration of the statute of limitations and a lack of evidence. Batali was found not guilty in one instance of indecent assault and battery at a trial in Boston last year. In 2022, the debate over Batali’s misconduct and ramifications reignited following the release of the documentary Batali: The Fall of a Superstar on Discovery Plus.