Massachusetts woman sues Mario Batali, accuses him of sexually assaulting her in Boston

The lawsuit alleges that the celebrity chef "rubbed her breasts, grabbed her buttocks, put his hands between her legs and groped her groin area."

Boston, MA - 11/29/16 -  Celebrity chef Mario Batali speaks with a reporter at Eataly food court and grocery store in the Prudential Center.  (Lane Turner/Globe Staff) Reporter:  (Duggan Arnett)  Topic: (live_eataly_photos)
Mario Batali at Eataly Boston in 2016. –Lane Turner/Globe Staff

A Massachusetts woman has filed a lawsuit against Mario Batali, alleging that the celebrity chef and restaurateur, who has been accused of multiple cases of sexual assault since December 2017, sexually assaulted her in Boston in April 2017.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court, alleges that Natali Tene, 28, spotted Batali, 57, at Towne Stove and Spirits restaurant, which is located on Boylston Street near Eataly, the Italian food emporium in which Batali was previously a partner. When Batali saw Tene taking a photo of him from across the restaurant, he invited her to join him for a selfie, at which point he “grabbed and kissed Ms. Tene’s face, rubbed her breasts, grabbed her buttocks, put his hands between her legs and groped her groin area, and kept forcefully squeezing her face into his as he kissed her repeatedly,” according to the complaint.

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“Ms. Tene seeks damages for the severe emotional distress she has suffered due to the famous celebrity chef and business mogul’s sexual assault against her, which was carried out in broad public and in a brutally dehumanizing fashion,” the complaint reads.

Tene’s attorneys, Eric Baum and Matthew Fogelman, told Boston.com that Tene filed a report with the Boston Police Department on June 22, 2018.

In a statement provided to Boston.com, Tene’s attorneys said the lawsuit “shines a light on a serious, frequently occurring issue that must be addressed and stopped.”

“What Natali went through was a nightmare,” the statement reads. “Nobody should ever be subjected to this type of conduct. As a fan of Mario Batali, all she wanted to do was innocently take a picture with him. Without warning, he then sexually assaulted her. Mario Batali’s actions were humiliating and degrading.”

Representatives for Batali did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Batali stepped away from day-to-day operations of his restaurants in December 2017 after saying he was “deeply sorry” following sexual misconduct allegations from several former employees. In May 2018, Batali’s restaurant group cut ties with him after a “60 Minutes” segment contained several allegations of Batali’s sexual misconduct at the Spotted Pig (a New York City restaurant owned by Ken Friedman that counted Batali as a frequent visitor and initial investor), including one woman saying that Batali drugged and sexually assaulted her, a claim Batali denied.

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Tene previously spoke with Eater about Batali in a May 2018 article. She told Eater she felt a mixture of anger and relief when several allegations against Batali came to light in December 2017.

“…I thought maybe I was alone, maybe it was an isolated incident,” Tene told Eater. “When I saw the news, I had this feeling like, ‘Yes, he’s being exposed as a creep’ — but also sadness and lots of anger that he got away with this behavior for so long.”

Tene’s lawsuit is not the only recent news regarding Batali’s alleged sexual misconduct. On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that the New York attorney general is investigating sexual misconduct claims at the Spotted Pig. Specifically, the Times reported that the attorney general is seeking records of, “among other things, any records of sexually suggestive communications between Mr. Friedman and any employees, including nude photos or descriptions of the attractiveness or sexual availability of employees and job applicants” and “video footage of Mr. Batali with female employees in the restaurant’s third-floor party room.”

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