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Upper West Sider Begs Mario Batali To Open in Neighborhood

Chef Mario Batali at the premiere of
Chef Mario Batali at the premiere of "Fantastic Mr. Fox" at Bergdorf Goodman in 2009.
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Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

UPPER WEST SIDE — When it comes to beefing up the Upper West Side's scant selection of quality restaurants, one local resident isn't too proud to beg.

Upper West Side resident Scott Loikits is so sick of the limited menu of tasty dining options in his neighborhood that he publicly begged star chef Mario Batali to open a restaurant.

Loikits wrote to dining blog Eater to plead for Batali, whose critically-acclaimed eateries include Babbo, Luppa and Del Posto, to take over the space recently vacated by Calle Ocho on Columbus Avenue near West 81st Street.

Calle Ocho is moving a block away to the Excelsior Hotel.

Right now the northernmost restaurant in Batali's eating empire is Esca on West 43rd Street.

Chef Mario Batali samples coffee during a tour of Eataly in 2010.
Chef Mario Batali samples coffee during a tour of Eataly in 2010.
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Jemal Countess/Getty Images

But Loikits told DNAinfo that Batali would thrive in the neighborhood. Loikits, who's lived at West 93rd Street and Columbus Avenue for 12 years, says he eats out about twice a week. He either treks downtown or heads to the same places again and again — Mermaid Inn, Telepan or 'Cesca — when he wants a good meal.

Aside from those few culinary bright spots, Upper West Siders are starved for better restaurants, Loikits said. That's why places like Danny Meyer's Shake Shack have lines out the door, Loikits said.

"People get so excited when someone who knows what they're doing shows up on the scene," Loikits said. "People would be queued up for hours and hours to buy [Batali's] pizzas."

In his online offer to Batali, Loikits helpfully pointed out that the cavernous former Calle Ocho space would be perfect for a "carbon copy" of Otto, Batali's family-friendly casual pizzeria.

Neither Batali, who's away from New York traveling, or his business partner Joe Bastianich could be reached for comment.

Rafe Evans, the real estate broker with Walker Malloy & Co. who's listing the former Calle Ocho space, said Batali would fit into the Upper West Side's dining scene like pecorino and egg on a pizza.

Rent on the 7,000 square foot restaurant space is $55,000 per month.

"The time seems right for a downtown sensibility uptown," Evans said. "Many of [Batali's] customers are on the Upper West Side and none of his businesses are. He'd be mobbed. To get the kind of experience he offers, you have to take a $15 or $20 cab ride right now."

Loikits says he'll put his money where his mouth is if Batali opens a restaurant in his neighborhood. Not only will be he be first in line for a table, he'll honor the colorful clog-wearing chef with new footwear.

"If he comes to the Upper West Side, I'll buy a pair of orange Crocs," Loikits said. "I'm sure that will persuade him."