Mario_Batali,_2005-1San Francisco, CA – Almost 30 years after leaving California to apprentice in Italy, Mario Batali has penned the lease on Animale,  a 250-seat restaurant and enoteca planned for the top of Nob Hill’s historic Fairmont Hotel. Batali, host of ABC’s The Chew, will partner on his homecoming project with none other than Anthony Bourdain, fellow celebrity chef and host of CNN’s Parts Unknown.

Mario_Batali,_2005-1It will be the first Bay Area restaurant from either of the the food impresarios. Batali’s return to San Francisco has been long anticipated by Bay Area foodies, and until today’s announcement the project has been shrouded in secrecy. Billed as a “game-centric take on modern Cal-Roman fare,” the restaurant will command sweeping bay views, and will include a 65-seat enoteca featuring old-world-focused wines and amari selected by Tosca’s Ceri Smith. The menu will revolve around Roman specialties, and plans to offer extended dining hours to woo the late-night industry crowd.

For Batali, this is something of a homecoming. Before growing a string of New York successes into a global empire of 26 restaurants, he worked at the Clift Hotel in San Francisco in 1985 in his first stint as sous chef. This was before the young chef moved to Italy to apprentice at La Volta, where Batali would eventually master the traditional Italian cuisine that would make him famous.

He seems reenergized by the challenge of returning to San Francisco, which in his absence has become the #1 food city in America. “It’s a treat to come back to San Francisco,” he told us. “There is so much here in terms of local produce, and so many inspired people working in food and wine.” Asked about his partner, Batali had nothing but good things to say. “Anthony is a workhorse, and he’s got an unerring palate.” With a chuckle, he adds, “And he knows where to go after the bars are closed.”

For Bourdain, who rose to fame with the runaway success of his bestselling tell-all Kitchen Confidential,  this will be a return to the restaurant world. When we caught up with the chef/author at his Embarcadero hotel Friday, he told us he’s excited to be back – and to be working with his fellow celeb chef. “Mario knows more about Italian regional cuisine than anyone I know. He’s just dynamite, and we’re good at different things, so it works.” Lifting his glass of rose´, he smiles. “And who else do you know that can put away a case of Barolo?”

Animale is projected for a July 1st opening, and will begin taking reservations for regular service on June 15th.