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Chef Mario Batali -- Accused of Playing Hide the Tip

8/17/2010 6:00 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

Celebrity super chef Mario Batali is the target of a new, meaty lawsuit -- in which former employees from one of his Los Angeles restaurants claim the "Iron Chef" screwed them out of serious tip money.

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According to a lawsuit filed today in L.A. County Superior Court, a former bartender and a former server at Mario's famous Pizzeria Mozza restaurant claim Batali and his business partner ran a tip-stealing scheme.

So how did the scheme work? According to the ex-employees, Batali and his partner created something called a "Wine Program" -- into which they funneled a certain percentage of tips that were paid by credit card ... and kept it for themselves.

The employees claim the practice was also going down at Batali's higher-end restaurant next door, Osteria Mozza.  The employees go on to claim that they weren't provided with adequate breaks and that they weren't paid promptly upon being let go. They're looking for unspecified damages ... which means, 'a lot.'

If you think you've heard this story before -- it's because Batali was just hit with a lawsuit on the other coast for allegedly running a similar scheme at his famous NY eatery, Babbo.

A rep for Batali had no comment.

79 COMMENTS

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61.

Mara    

That's why I never add my tip on the credit card bill, I always leave it as cash on the table because you never know how long it takes to give the servers the money or even if they it.

1423 days ago
62.

Mara    

sorry. what I meant to say is that I leave the tip on the table not on the credit card as I don't know if the server gets the money, how long it takes for them to get the money or even if they get the money. Also, I find that leaving a good tip right away for good service sometimes jogs the servers memory next time I'm in the same restaurant.

1423 days ago
63.

critic    

Wake up. When you eat at the establishments created by "celebrity chefs" you aren't eating their food, but you're paying for their name. There are many small cafes/bistros owned and operated by unknown chefs that are creating some amazing food. Most of these places don't stiff the staff that work for them. It's a small business and they are family. Batali I'm sure can cook, but he hasn't for some time. It's about creating a trademark; which is fine, but don't do it on the backs of others and don't pretend that you're not building your name.

1423 days ago
64.

Alex A    

Figures these guys are laughng all the way to the bank and must think people in LA are jerks...Mozza is over priced and not that good-thin gooey crust, stringy tomatoes, warm wine, stale bread. What it is a great example of the herd mentality that people have in LA; if its "hip" then it HAS to be good and no one has the balls to say it is not. Save your money and try the Ivy in SANTA MONICA....really...much better food, attitude, prices PLUS you can valet park...

1423 days ago
65.

sarah    

I have been a waitress for 15 years, and even though it is slimy I believe tips belong to the house. So I don't think these servers have much of a lawsuit.

1423 days ago
66.

Marie    

You're Italian, and You're cheating the people that work for you...
You should be ashamed of yourself. Youre a disgrace to all us Italians.....

1423 days ago
67.

moe    

His partner in the LA restaurant is just as bad! Cheap A**HOLES!

1423 days ago
68.

RICK    

Business must be bad, when you have to steal from your own staff. Eat a salad you plump turkey

1423 days ago
69.

CCC    

Mario (Jabba the Hut) Batali is one of the richest chefs out there. I'm sure he doesn't need his workers money. Knock it off, Jabba, before you start to lose more than you earn.

1423 days ago
70.

E    

He should get together with Tom Emmer(running for gov in MN)and they could both take milk money from our children.If it is true he is a douchebag.If it is not I am sorry for the slander.I will say Tom Emmer is a piece of.........fill in the blank

1423 days ago
71.

bdbbrooklyn    

Did no one watch that show with Mario Batali, Gweneth Paltrow and that insufferable food critic from the Times where they travel through Spain? If you had, you would have seen that he is a total pig. I'm glad his employees finally put him down. Now, if only Andre Balaz would get his.

1423 days ago
72.

South Beach    

All his money and he's ripping off servers. What a pig. I really liked him. Well that's over.

1423 days ago
73.

Paddy    

He might be a famous fat cook but anyone who steals from the hardworking server is just fat s***. Period.

Maybe he needs help paying for the amount of food it takes to maintain that svelte physique he has?

1423 days ago
74.

TMZPaul    

Just out of curiosity...is roughly 20% still considered a good tip? "Acceptable" service = 15% ? What's the norm? Thanks to all you servers who do your best!

1423 days ago
75.

madame vin rouge    

And the dish ran away with the spoon.

1422 days ago
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