When dining in Cannes, it seems best to do as the Italians do.
As soon as the American Pavilion opened its doors Friday, chef Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich — his partner in the restaurants Babbo, Esca and Lupo — started whipping up pizzas on the shorefront, and firing up the pies in a Viking grill parked in the sand.
“The grill brings in a whole other flavor,” says Bastianiach, a winemaker and importer whose recently published book “Vino Italiano” has been receiving rave reviews. “You can never get the heat right without a pizza oven — but a grill can actually get that hot.”
Batali and Bastianich, who will be adding a pizzeria to their Gotham restaurant empire come September, returned to the Pavilion for a second year as part of the Bon Appetit magazine-sponsored chefs program.
“There is already a lifestyle association between Bon Appetit and various wine and food festivals,” says Batali, rewarded earlier this month by the James Beard Foundation as the best chef in New York City. “By adding Cannes to the list, entertainment gets added to that mixture.”
The pony-tailed star of “Mario Eats Italy” and “Molto Mario” on the Food Network — he’s currently developing a new show for the cabler — will also oversee a reception and a yacht party during his four-day stay on the Croisette.
Todd English, whose five Figs and five Olives restaurants are part of his 15 eateries, arrives Monday, followed by Food Network chef Tyler Florence (“Food 911”), who’ll dish up a Southern-style feast next week for singer and actor Sam Moore — the half of Sam and Dave who stars in the Memphis soul music docu “Only the Strong Survive.”
A chef for two decades, English, too, sees entertainment and cooking coming together in a distinct manner. “There’s a direct connection between entertainment and cooking, but it’s intangible. We’re getting a European presence and developing clientele on all levels, but you can’t (do cooking appearances) just for marketing. It has to also be sincere.”
Batali’s cooking must have been easy to smell all along the Mediterranean coast: A few hours after he started cooking, he got a surprise visit from “Today” show anchor Matt Lauer, who helicoptered in from Monaco for the breakfastcast’s segment, “Where in the World Is Matt?”