Celebrity chef Mario Batali is a big guy with a big presence and a big guy with a big presence needs a big kitchen. When he and his wife, Susi Cahn, combined and remodeled two apartments in Manhattan, he says, "the single most important thing we did was take as much room for the kitchen as we could." That nearly 200-square-foot U, larger than the kitchens at many of his New York City restaurants (Lupa, Esca, Casa Mono) contains a 10-by-3-foot peninsula, where Batali and his two sons, 8-year-old Benno and 6-year-old Leo, make pizza and pastas with their friends. The 6-foot space between the peninsula and the stove is unusually wide, so two people can work back to back without bumping into each other. Mario also wanted a big counter, which invariably becomes a stage. "He's even informative when he's cooking at home," says interior designer Lisa Eaton, Cahn's cousin. Eaton, who advised the family on the kitchen, has consulted on several of Batali's restaurants, including the famous Babbo; his most recent venture, Bistro du Vent; and Il Posto, which will open in April and serve regional Italian classics like agnolotti presented Piedmont-style, with a bowl of truffles and butter on the side.
Other than demanding the outsize counter, though, Batali says he let Cahn have her way on a lot of decisions: "She got everything she wanted, and I got most of what I wanted." On Batali's abandoned wish list? "The pizza oven didn't fly. Neither did the spit roaster over the stove," he says. "I wanted a meat slicer that would come out of the counter when you pushed a button, but that would've been totally unsafe for the kids."
The sink remains in its original position, in front of a window that overlooks Otto. Added on are a pantry and a walk-in refrigerated wine-storage room that's roughly five feet wide and six feet long (though Batali wishes it were even bigger and that it were integrated into the kitchen instead of down the hall). There's also an office for Cahn just off the dining area, a study where she can do marketing for Coach Dairy Goat Farm, her family's business, and still peek out and see what the boys are up to in the kitchen.