The most anticipated restaurant of the NYC leg of Foodcation 2010 was Mario Batali’s Babbo. Since reservations are accepted one month prior to the calendar date requested, I made sure I called on July 21st at 7AM, ON THE DOT (the restaurant reservation line opens at 10AM)!
1-212-777-0303 … BUSY.
Instantly, my heart sank. For the next 20 minutes, I was in agony. If Saturday night didn’t work, I only had 2 more nights in NYC to eat at Babbo! SHIT SHIT SHIT!
I redialed and redialed, and redialed and redialed. I was so used to the dial and hang up routine that I almost didn’t notice when I finally got through. A lady with a British accent picked up and asked me to hold some more. I waited and waited, and waited and waited. Finally, the lady picked up again and I told her the date and time that I wanted. “No problem,” she said. Really? That’s it? I almost had a heart attack for nothing. Awesome.
Babbo is located in Greenwich Village, a couple of blocks away from another beloved restaurant of mine, Harold Dieterle’s Perilla. Lodged between two brownstones, Babbo would be easy to miss if it weren’t for the large contrasting letters that adorn the front of the building and the small crowd that usually forms outside, waiting for a table. Luckily for us, we were seated promptly upon arrival.
Having already studied the menu beforehand, I had a pretty good idea of what we were going to order. I decided to forgo the tasting menus and order a la carte. But since my list was pretty long (I was interested in 2 antipasti, 6 primi pastas and 3 secondi), I asked our waiter for his advice. “Is this too much food?” seems to be a question I ask at every restaurant :). He suggested that we order one or two antipasti, cut our primi pastas down to three and the secondi down to one or two. Even though it was difficult to eliminate dishes, it was good advice. The portions at Babbo were pretty generous so had we ordered what I originally intended, they would have had to roll us out of the restaurant.
The antipasti dishes were great. The “Grilled Octopus” was perfectly tender and the limoncello vinaigrette lightened up the intense charred flavor. Comparing Babbo’s grilled octopus to the grilled octopus at Bottega Ristorante (Napa, CA), I would have to say that Babbo has the upper hand, primarily because of the refreshing vinaigrette. As for the “Steamed Cockles”, the spicy tomato based broth that they were bathing in was sooooo delicious – definitely give me more bread so I can sop it all up, delicious.
Next up was the highlight of the night: Babbo’s infamous “Black Spaghetti”. I can’t even describe in words how amazing this dish was; I can only drool as I think about it. Best pasta I’ve ever had, HANDS DOWN.
The other two pasta dishes we ordered were delicious as well, my favorite being the “Gnocchi” (with braised oxtail). Though the “Lamb’s Brain ‘Francobolli'” had great flavor and the pasta was perfectly al dente, I couldn’t really tell that I was eating lamb’s brain; the filling was a lot more ricotta cheese than lamb’s brain. Francobolli means stamps in Italian and as you can see, the edges make the ravioli look like such. Cute right?
Lamb or duck? That is always the question. This time we chose duck. Remember when I said that Bottega‘s duck confit was the best I’ve ever had? Well, it still is in my book, but Babbo’s “Duck” (with endive marmellata, Babbo pancetta and cherry vinaigrette) is a very, very close second.
We ended our meal with a “light” dessert. We actually saw the table next to us order the “Assortment of Gelati and Sorbetti” and thought it looked pretty good. My favorite gelato turned out to be the one that I thought I would like the least: Olive Oil. (Side story: So about the table next to us… guess who? Julianna Margulies, her husband and two friends! Apparently it was one of the friends’ birthday and EVERY DESSERT on the menu was ordered as a birthday surprise!)
So, did Babbo live up to the hype? Assolutamente!
Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca
110 Waverly Pl
New York, NY 10011