Mario Batali Launches a Children's Foundation

20090505-mariobatali.jpgIn 2007, Mario Batali raised between 1.3 and 1.5 million bucks for charity. Yeah, not many people can just snap their fingers and do that. While he supports the arts, and other causes that have happily received his big money, Batali is ready to focus on one specific passion—kids. He has two sons and says he's pretty transfixed with little ones in general.

"I've always found kids fascinating. As opposed to other restaurants, where you might find a loud child annoying, us Italians like to pick them up and walk them around. Sure, at a swanky restaurant, it's something different, but I don't own any of those," he said over the phone.

While the Mario Batali Foundation's mission statement is kind of broad ("to feed, protect, educate, and empower children"), Batali wants to keep the scope open. He's full of ideas. Eventually he'd like to award scholarships and host more benefit dinners, in addition to events with the Yankees. He may even start a blog focused on the project, but will he join Twitter? Probably not.

"I don't need to tell people I'm going to the bathroom," Batali said.

Though his pals Martha Stewart, Emeril Lagasse, and Jimmy Fallon have been egging him on to join ("They're probably tweeting right now," he said at one point), it's not really his thing.

So don't expect a tweet along the lines of "Just fed, protected, educated, and empowered children," but rest assured, he's thinking about it.

This weekend, Batali will host a benefit to launch the effort where he'll show the not-yet-released Pixar film Up (it officially comes out May 29). He expects thirty to fifty percent of the guests to be kids. Following the screening, they're invited to hang with him and eat food from Daisy May’s BBQ and Otto, cupcakes from Kyotofu, carnival games, balloon sculptures, and raffles.

The screening will begin at 1:30 p.m. at Tribeca Cinemas (54 Varick Street; map). Buy tickets at mariobatalifoundation.org for $150 each.