Fired chef at Mario Batali’s Babbo restaurant files bias suit

A pastry chef at a Mario Batali restaurant said he was set up for taking some pork home — and then got the chop.

Isaac Franco Nava, who worked in Batali’s famed Babbo restaurant in the West Village, filed a discrimination lawsuit Wednesday in Brooklyn Supreme Court alleging he was wrongfully fired after he complained to supervisors about being called “girly” and a “f—-t” at work.

The chef said he was given permission to take a pork chop home — and then got terminated by management for theft the following day.

Franco named Batali and his celebrity partner Joseph Bastianich as defendants in the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages.

He also named the partners’ related businesses and several co-workers, court documents show.

Franco, who is Mexican and openly homosexual, had a working relationship with Batali and Bastianich before he was brought on at Babbo. He was the pastry chef at their other Italian outpost, Otto, before making the switch in November 2015.

Immediately, Franco began to have problems with his two managers — both white men — and a co-worker, who is also Hispanic, the lawsuit said.

Franco was called a “stupid Mexican,” a “pajaro,” which is derogatory Spanish slang for a homosexual, “girly” and a “f—-t,” according to court papers.

“The abuse was hostile, aggressive, threatening, demeaning and embarrassing,” the suit alleged.


Isaac Franco Nava, a former pastry chef at Babbo, is suing owners Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich after facing bias remarks at work.


After four months, Franco complained in writing to Babbo’s head pastry chef, his lawsuit said.

That prompted a human resources manager from Babbo’s corporate offices to reach out. His tormentors were given “minor discipline,” Franco was told, according to his suit. A few months later, in June 2016, the name-calling and harassment resumed — with an added intensity in retaliation for filing a formal complaint, Franco said.

He spoke several times to Babbo’s head pastry chef over the new few months, but no action was taken, the suit said.

On April 11, Franco complained again, and this time his boss said she would take the complaints to a higher-up, who could speak directly to Batali and Bastianich.

Instead, Franco’s lawsuit said, the supervisor conspired to set him up. On April 17, Franco was told he could take a raw pork chop home for dinner since he had been too busy at work to join the others for the nightly free meal. The next day, he was called in and fired for stealing, the suit said.

Batali and Bastianich’s company didn’t return emails for comment.

Franco’s attorney said his client had initially been thrilled to join Babbo.

“Isaac is a proud member of the gay community and to be routinely harassed at work because of his sexual identity and race is completely unacceptable,” said attorney Eric Baum. “He brought this lawsuit … to make sure this does not happen to any other employee.”

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