MOZZA, the hotly anticipated pizzeria owned by Mario Batali, Nancy Silverton and Joe Bastianich, is still a week from opening, but apparently some sausage fans couldn’t wait. Late on Oct. 28, someone broke into the restaurant and walked away with $700 of hand-crafted cured meats made by Batali’s father, Armandino, at his Seattle business, Salumi. Then just two days later, a 13-pound imported Italian mortadella sausage also disappeared.
The case of the missing mortadella is still a mystery, but the pilferer of the salumi was caught on tape.
“We checked out our security cameras and at 11:27 that Saturday night, you see this guy ride up on his bicycle,” Silverton says. “He looks like some yuppie: He’s got a receding hairline and he’s wearing khakis. He’s carrying a cellphone.”
Apparently, the thief climbed in a window and somehow found the walk-in refrigerator in the darkened restaurant, which is still under construction. “How he didn’t fall in one of the holes in the floor I’ll never know,” Silverton says. “The osteria is full of them. Even I’ve fallen in them.”
Among the 40 pounds of salumi that were stolen were lamb prosciutto, guanciale (cured hog jowl) and culatello (the heart of a prosciutto). Also missing were a bar blender and a construction worker’s tool kit. Left behind, though, was a giant wheel of aged provolone cheese.
“I’ve been telling people we’re looking for a yuppie guy on a bike who’s lactose-intolerant,” Silverton says.
The thefts won’t further delay the opening of the pizzeria, located at the corner of Highland and Melrose avenues, which is still scheduled for Tuesday. The salumi was reordered the next day.
Silverton says that when she told the elder Batali about the theft, he laughed.
“He thought it was hilarious,” she says. “In fact, it seemed like maybe he was even a little honored.”