A woman who accused Mario Batali of groping her at a Boston restaurant said the celebrity chef was “grabbing me in a way that I was never touched before,” as she testified in his sexual misconduct trial Monday.
Natali Tene, 32, filed a lawsuit against Batali, 61, over the alleged 2017 incident in which she claims he non-consensually kissed her, rubbed her breasts, grabbed her behind and put his hands between her legs.
“I want to be able to take control of what happened and come forward, say my piece, get the truth out there,” she told the court. “And hold everyone be accountable for their actions.”
Her testimony in Boston Municipal Court came after Batali — in a surprise move — waived his right to a jury trial, leaving his fate in the hands of Judge James Stanton.
The disgraced restaurateur, who denies the allegations, could face up to 2 1/2 years in jail and be required to register as a sex offender if convicted.
Tene was first to take the stand and walked the judge through the alleged March 31, 2017 incident, saying she took a photo of Batali when she spotted him at a bar around midnight and he then called her over, according to the Boston Globe.
She apologized to Batali for taking a picture without his permission, and he then suggested they take a selfie.
That’s when he began to grope her, she claimed.
“His right hand was all over my breast. All over my rear end,’’ Tene testified. “He was grabbing me in a way that I had never been touched before. Squeezing in between my legs. Squeezing me in my vagina to pull me closer.”
She continued: “It was all happening so quickly… there was touching of my breasts. Touching my sensitive feminine areas in between my legs. Touching all over my face. His lips on the side of my face. His tongue in my ear. Just a lot of touching.”
After, Tene immediately left the bar, she told the judge.
Batali’s lawyer Anthony Fuller said in his opening statement Monday that the accuser is “not being truthful.”
“This is being fabricated for money and for fun,” Fuller told the judge.
Photos and videos “do not show any indecent assault and battery,” he said. “We will show you substantial evidence that she has concocted this whole story.”
He attempted to discredit Tene by noting she once landed in hot water for lying to get out of jury duty by telling a Massachusetts court she was clairvoyant.
Tene is pursuing both civil and criminal charges against the chef.
She claimed is “absolutely not” just suing the chef for money, noting she came forward after reading about other sexual misconduct allegations against Batali.
Four other women accused the chef of inappropriate touching in 2017, causing him to step down from TV roles and operations of his restaurant empire, including Eataly, which he has since sold his stake in.