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Original Issue

Q&A Mario Batali

The celebrity chef (Molto Mario) is writing Mario Tailgates NASCAR Style, a cookbook that will be published next spring

SI: Will the dishes in your book be based on specific tracks? Bristol Bruschetta, anyone?

Batali: We'll go from track to track, talking about the crab cakes in Dover versus the barbecue in North Carolina versus grilled vegetables in Sonoma.

SI: One of your restaurants, Otto Enoteca Pizzeria, has become a hangout for NASCAR drivers when they're in New York City. Why do they like it there?

Batali: Otto does not have a huge NASCAR fan base among its regular customers, so these guys, who are generally mobbed wherever they go, are left to themselves.

SI: You've been to several NASCAR races. Do people recognize you at the track?

Batali: When I was getting ready to drop the green flag at the Pocono 500, there was a stand that holds about 110,000 people, and we guessed that 70,000 were chanting "Mol-to, Mol-to."

SI: You also cooked a prerace meal for the drivers at Pocono. What did you serve them?

Batali: We did polenta, shrimp scampi, barbecue brisket, ribs, skirt steak and braciola, and berries with zabaglione.

SI: In a fantasy cooking draft who should be picked first: you, Rachael Ray or Thomas Keller?

Batali: I'd say Thomas Keller belongs on the Bill Belichick--coached team. He's the thinking man's pick. Rachael Ray would play in Miami. And I would be with the Steelers, the most physical team.

SI: Have you exchanged recipes with fans at tracks?

Batali: Absolutely. There's generally a high quality with NASCAR fans. Nothing was gross. Nothing was disgusting.

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