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gmi3804

Babbo

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Admin: with the advent of a major new review in the New York Times today, we now have this new thread for reviews, reports and discussion of Babbo. An archive of discussion covering Babbo prior to this date may be found here

I'm ecstatic about Bruni's appointment as The Times' Restaurant Critic. His review of Babbo in today's paper is everything I hope a review to be: informative, literate, and entertaining.

I'm an infrequent poster here and live in Chicago. I often rely on Times reviews when planning my culinary adventures in NYC. I miss the days of Reichl, and didn't care much for Hesser.

George


Edited by slkinsey (log)

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Some relevant excerpts for posterity:

Among the restaurants that make my stomach do a special jig, Babbo ranks near the top, and that's one reason a fresh review appears today, six years after Babbo opened and received a three-star rating in The New York Times from Ruth Reichl.

But there are other reasons, including this: Babbo provides a clear example of what separates an absolutely terrific restaurant, which it is, from a wholly transcendent dining experience, which it is not. It traces one of the dividing lines between three and four stars, a stratum that makes demands well beyond the perimeter of the plate.

At present, five restaurants in New York City have four stars from The Times. All are French in pedigree or predilection, and that rightly prompts notice as well as debate, at least around the tables where restaurant lovers huddle and feast.

Can the list be complete without Japanese restaurants, so wildly in vogue? Will it ever accommodate Italian restaurants, so many and beloved? Why not Babbo?

To the last question, there is a short, emblematic answer: the music. On the first of my recent visits to Babbo, what thundered — and I do mean thundered — from the sound system was relatively hard rock.

FWIW, Bruni awarded Babbo three stars.

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I ate at Babbo's last time I was in New York. I noted none of the ambience issues mentioned in today's review.

Granted, the bar area was crowded, but the fact that Babbo accomodates walk-ins is, to me, an example of excellent service.

I was unable to solidify my plans in New York and consequently couldn't make reservations anywhere. I took a chance and asked a friend to meet me at Babbo's early - around 6pm - hoping that we could grab an early or late table or be fortunate enough that there would be a cancellation (it was a thursday, btw).

I arrived first and went in. I walked up to the people at the reservation desk and, prepared to beg, asked if there were any way at all I could get a table for two at any time.

I was shocked, pleasantly so, when the gentleman smoothly replied "No problem at all. Welcome. We'll have a table for you in about 20 minutes. Would you like to have a drink at the bar?"

I was gobsmacked (as the Brits say) and happy to be so!

My friend arrived, we enjoyed a lovely drink, we were shown to our table and treated like royalty throughout the entire meal. My friend is vegatarian and the waiter was very helpful in suggesting appropriate dishes to suit us both. The sommelier was remarkably helpful in suggesting an appropriate bottle of wine, taking into account both what we were eating and our request that it be "moderately" priced. (I don't recall the particular wine, but I do recall the price $28 - moderate indeed!)

The food was delicous, the service continued to be attentive, but not hovering. We didn't feel rushed or harried at all.

As to music, I don't even remember any. Certainly it wasn't loud. I would have noticed as I have some difficulty hearing in the presence of background noise (too much loud music in my 20s!)

Perhaps it's more frenetic in the main part of the restaurant. Perhaps it was a quiet thursday. I admit it was early - could have crowded up later.

But this was close to one of the best dining experiences I've every had.

I think that although a less crowded waiting area (ie: without walk-in area) would perhaps be more pleasant when the restaurant is more crowded, the desire to serve walk-ins is commendable. Chef Batali certainly doesn't have to. I think doing so is representative of his wanting to put customers first. I think that's a very good trait in a restaurant.

The star issue - eh - who cares? 3 or 4 stars, people are still going to keep eating at Babbo because, bottom line, it's a great place.

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I ate at Babbo in early May. It was after a show on a Friday night, so we didn't sit down until about 10:45pm. I did notice the high volume of the music and wondered why they played it that loud. It certainly wasn't ear-splitting, but it wasn't exactly in the background either. The food approached perfection, but the atmosphere was decidedly casual and not "four star" caliber. I, of course, wasn't looking for a four-star experience

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You are so right, Pork's Neck. I guess that apostrophe just gets in the way of dangling little fingers.

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The one and only time I ate at Babbo -- about a year ago? with a small group of eGulleteers -- I did not notice the music, probably because we were talking so much. But I certainly noted the crowding. And right there is reason to lower a rating.

Rich, it's not merely the type of music, but that there's music AT ALL. My favorite place, which has bounced between 4 and 3 stars, is a beautifully spare room, save one major decorative piece at one end. The tables are well spaced, and of just the right size: neither so small as to be covered when all the food arrives, nor too large to prevent engaging in a bit of kneesies if the mood strikes (discretely hidden under the tablecloth, of course). The service is well informed and discreet. And there is no music whatsoever. Music is a distraction from food, an obstacle to conversation. Even if they played something I normally enjoyed, I would be unhappy.

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I ate there two weeks ago on Sunday night at 830pm. We arrived at 730 and sat at the bar for some drinks. I had a vodka martini and she had a cosmopolitan. The manager informed us our table was ready and put our drinks on a platter and asked us to follow her.

We sat upstairs just under the skylight.

Appetizer:

Grilled Octopus-

Is this the octopus I know? VERY tender and grilled to perfection. Fantastic light vinagrette complemented the dish. Literally the best prepared octopus I ever had.

Pasta:

Goat Cheese Tortelloni with Dried Orange and Wild Fennel Pollen-

Is he serious?? OMG! The very light orange essence was unbeliveable and complemented the tangy goat cheese perfectly. The pasta was so light I thought it would float off my dish. My mouth is watering thinking about it.

Entrees:

Spicy Two-Minute Calamari Sicilian Lifeguard Style

The ultra tender calamari were cooked in a light tomato based broth with pine nuts and capers. Chilis made this dish a hint spicy which was fantastic. Cooked to perfection.

*Special* Veal Osso Buco stuffed with escarole

Braised lightly. The slightly bitter escarole paired perfectly with the veal. I forgot the cheese that was with the stuffing but it was light and creamy. Cannelinis rounded out the dish. Excellent!

Dessert:

Espresso

Porto

Saffron Panna Cotta

I can only describe this by saying it was a perfect light dessert to end a fantastic dinner. The peaches and sweet basil were a perfect pairing with the sorbet

We purchased a bottle of 1997 La Sala Chianti Classico Riserva that was paired well with our meal by the sommelier.

The service was impeccable. The food indescribeable. You just have to taste it yourself. Definitely my #1 Italian Restaurant in NYC.

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So I’ve lived five blocks from Babbo for years. What finally gets me there? A hankering for organ meat. Sweetbreads to be exact. At 6 tonight I thought, well, I ain’t got nothing going on in my life, might as well eat the thymus gland of a young calf. I mean, why not?

I walked over to Babbo and got a seat at the bar. I was on the end, which was a tad unfortunate cuz the waiters kept bumping by. But the room, as has been described here often was, well, as described here often.

I wanted to go for an all offal night. But at the last minute I thought, better make sure you enjoy something. So instead of the tripe parmigiana (which, to be honest, sounds just awful), I ordered the lambs tongue. Then the sweetbreads.

I ordered a glass of some barbera d’albo. Or something. It was good.

The lambs tongue was truly yummy. Little grayish brown slices of tongue that you could just picture sneaking of a sweet little lambs mouth. Can you say “baaa?” The slice were served with wonderful morels, scallion and a large 3-minute egg on top. The tongue was tender and fully of a sweet earthy aroma that you tasted high up in the back of your mouth. They tasted similar to the morel, but each had distinct flavor that went perfectly together. I wasn’t a fan of the egg. The yolk was a little too cooked. It didn’t seem to add anything.

While I waited for my sweetbreads, the table next to me was served their entrees. Meat. My god, what beautiful meat. There were lamb chops. Beautiful golden porkchops. And, best of all, ribeye. For two. A simply erotic hunk of meat, sitting on the carving board like a plump black buttock. The server sliced it to reveal, just under the charred crust, an even rosy pink interior, like sweet young lips, glistening with sweat and just begging to be kissed. It was sliced inches thick and piled atop roasted fingerling potatoes. Oy gevalt and Ish kabible. Gotta get me some of that.

The sweetbreads came. Wow. Really. These things are good. Three large sweetbreads, golden crisp and plump. Sitting on a bed of two types of caramelized onion and topped with snips of fennel frond and orange jest. Each piece was topped with wonderfully sweet and smokey duck bacon. To start, I tasted just the plain sweetbread. It was terrific. Still crisp, tender – very similar to monkfish in texture. The taste was subtle, like a light – very light – fish. Everything went together perfectly. Nothing unpleasant. No icky texture. No bitterness. It was just good. The sweet onion; the anise from the fennel. The orange was absolutely terrific (giving the dish a little taste of what General Tso’s chicken should taste like).

I decided to keep going. I ordered the panna cotta with almond sorbet. Ooosh. Good. The panna cotta sat in the middle of the plate like a perfectly formed, young milky white breast. Quivering and glistening under almond syrup and surrounded by plump red nipples of quartered figs. The cool almond sorbet was soft with toasted nutty flavor. Ooosh. (Had to say it twice.)

I finished the evening off with some Frenette. Tastes like cough syrup, jagermeister and a heavy dash of bile. Mmmmm. Bile.

(Took pictures, but they didn't work.)


Edited by Stone (log)

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The tripe parm at Babbo is actually one of the more successful renditions of tripe that I've had in New York. Pity you didn't order it. Guaranteed to make converts out of tripe haters.

Then again, more for me. :biggrin:

Soba

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The tripe parm at Babbo is actually one of the more successful renditions of tripe that I've had in New York. Pity you didn't order it. Guaranteed to make converts out of tripe haters.

Then again, more for me. :biggrin:

Soba

yeah, i regret that I didn't try it. but i wanted to play the odds of enjoying part of my meal. ends up that i liked the sweetbreads more than the tongue.

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For me, there is no restaurant in New York, or the United States, like Babbo. Dinner last night confirmed what Bruni told us a few weeks ago-the restaurant is operating at as high a level as it ever has, and is turning out some truly special and unique cuisine. Here's what I sampled-As you can see, eating with a large group thats willing to share is a nice way to try a number of dishes.

Antipasti:

Grilled Octopus w/ "Borlotti Marinati" and Spicy Limoncello Vinaigrette

Warm Tripe "alla Parmigiana"

Three Goat Cheese Truffles w/ Peperonata

Pig Foot Milanese with Rice Beans and Arugula

Prosciutto San Daniele with Black Pepper Fett'unta

Primi:

Mint Love Letters with Spicy Lamb Sausage

Beef Cheek Ravioli with Crushed Squab Liver and Black Truffles

Gnocchi with Braised Oxtails

Stinging Nettle Pappardelle with Wild Boar Ragu

Secondi:

Spicy Two Minute Calamari, Sicilian Lifeguard Style

Grilled Quail with "Scorzonera all Romana" and Saba

Fennel Dusted Sweetbreads with Sweet and Sour Onions, Duck Bacon and Membrillo Vinegar

Lamb Chops Scottadita with Jerusalem Artichokes, Shitakes and Cumin Yogurt

Braised Veal Breast w/ Pancetta, Escarole and Asparagus

Dolci:

Pine Nut Crostata w/ Buttermilk Gelato

Amaro Tasting

Without going into too much detail, let me just say that both the Veal Breast and Crostata take an already powerhouse menu and bring it up another notch. Service was as impeccable and unpretentious as ever, guiding us through a leisurely paced 2 hours, 30 minute meal. For me, Babbo IS a transcendent restaurant. A transcendent 3-star restaurant, whose energy uniquely captures what makes good food, wine, and company so special.

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I may write a longer review later. Babbo is a place where I've had one of my favourite meals. And generally speaking, Batali has been a big influence. As it was, it had taken me a couple of months to organise a trip with my dad for a certain day, and then jumping through all the hoops for a reservation etc.

Anway, on Friday night, parts of the meal were really, really poorly done. I saw no attention to detail, no care at all taken on some standard dishes, most of our mains were ridiculously undercooked - including a horrribly rare monkfish which we sent back (though we should have sent back a very soggy sweetbreads as well). Some of the pastas were okay (chitarra alla botarga - although the chilli murdered the botarga), some were ruined through inattention (2 portions of beef cheek ravioli were barely sauced, and entirely bland - where on my last trip I thought the dish sublime). The papardelle with summer truffles felt a little over cooked to us all.

Highlights, surprisingly, were deserts, and wine service. I can only imagine Batali was nowhere to be seen that night.

Disappointment all around.

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The last time we went as a group we ordered the tasting menu, but we opted for the Pasta tasting menu because I don't like offal.

And a good thing too! Because if we hadn't ordered the tasting menu, we'd have missed out on all those absolutely amazing pastas.

The garganelli with porcini and the short ribs stuffed pyramids were two standouts in particular, if memory serves.

Soba

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I had an incredible sour cherry crostata at the bar last tuesday. When I say TO DIE FOR < I mean it was isanely great! the perfect combination of tart and sweet and the vanilla gelato was great, there was also a mint coulis too that was a nice complimet, i dont know how much long the cherries are in season, but you should go there just for that!

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I gave Babbo a try last night. Following eGullet advice, I showed up shortly after 5pm and had no trouble getting a seat for dinner at the bar.

I had my heart set on the pasta tasting menu, but I was surprised to learn that they won't serve their tasting menus to parties of one. What an unfriendly policy! Anyhow, it's there loss, as I ended up spending less money.

Anyhow, I proceeded to order a la carte. Babbo is well known for offal, so that's where my priorities lay. I started with Pig's Feet Milanese. This looked a bit like a large potato pancake, crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside. It was a wonderful taste sensation.

I then had the dish so much talked about, the Beef Cheek Ravioli. Perhaps it was inevitable that it couldn't exceed its reputation, but it is a wonderful creation, putting traditional raviolis to shame.

Babbo offers plates of 3, 5, of 7 cheeses for dessert, priced at $12, $15, and $18 respectively. I chose the 5-cheese plate, which was really far too much for one person after a full-size appetizer and main course. A waiter came around and gave a back-story for all five cheeses (one of them came from a farm run by Mario Batali's wife's parents) and recommended the order in which they should be eaten, from least-to-most "assertive."

In an unusual custom, Babbo serves its single-serving wines by the quartino, rather than by the glass. A quartino is about 1/3 of a bottle, so you get about two glasses for around the price many restaurants charge for just one. I'm not a big drinker, so that was about all I needed to pace myself through the meal.

I agree with Frank Bruni that Babbo is a bit too crowded to qualify for four stars, but the music was not loud, nor was it the "relatively hard rock" he complained of. Perhaps the soundtrack changes later in the evening? Although I was there alone on this occasion, I believe my dining companions — had there been any — would have heard each other a lot easier than in most New York restaurants I've tried recently. The Bruni review led me to expect the hustle-bussle of a brasserie, and that Babbo is not. Service was excellent, particularly considering that I was a bar patron.

Babbo has so much to offer, and I felt that I saw just the tip of the iceberg. I will have to go back.

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You know, when I firrst tried it, that beef cheek ravioli actually did exceed all expectations. It remains on of the top five pastas I've ever tried. The version I had there recently wasn't even in the same class. Deeply disappointing.

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My husband and I were in NYC for one night on Sat. We had reservations at Babbo which I was very excited about. But since we had just flown in from 3 weeks in Spain we were exhausted. We went but were prepared for an overhyped restaurant with mediocre food and service after having so many fantastic meals in the Basque region.

From the moment we walked in we were thrilled! The service here is top notch all the way. We were seated upstairs which I was happy about. The music upstairs seemed just the right level while downstairs seemed very loud.

We started with cocktails, after 3 weeks without a dirty martini I was in heaven!

Caprese Salad was gorgeous and very tasty with a variety of tomatoes and amazing mozzerella. We also had the squash blossoms which were sauteed. Yum!!

On the advice of the sommelier my husband ordered a 97 Bruno Rocca Barbaresco. It was fantastic. The only thing I'll say that was a bit off was when he asked for a few suggestions on wine the sommelier was great at describing this wine, but normally a good S will also suggest one bottle up and one down in price, he never did this.

Next we shared the lambs tongue vinegrette. Really delicious!!

My husband had the pork chop which was HUGE and beautifully presented with a drizzle of thick balsamic. I had the duck which was done two ways: confit with morrels and breast with cherry sauce. I went back and forth trying to decide which was the best. Still trying to figure it out- it will have to remain a draw.

We wanted dessert but were just to full. Had a glass of dessert wine (moscat?) and left very happy.

Being from Seattle we of course were excited to try Babbo (MB is from Seattle) but so many "famous" chef restaurants read much better than they execute IMHO (Bolo). We were really impressed with everything here and will absolutely plan on dining again at Babbo next time we are in town!

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That duck dish sounds French. Did it taste like a dish you might have in a French place?

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That duck dish sounds French. Did it taste like a dish you might have in a French place?

Yes it definately had a french influence but the taste of the confit and morels reminded me of Thanksgiving turkey! It had a fantastic roasted taste when eaten together. And the breast with cherries wasn't as rich as a french dish would be, no butter in the reduction.

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Ate there last week. Dining solo, got the last seat at the bar-right at the corner nearest the door. Did not know about the 'quartino" portion-just assumed that the bartender was doing his best to make sure the wine lasted during the meal. Can't remember what I drank first- a red that was yummy and was only $12 or $13--very light and fruity. Had the lamb's tongue and it was good but the morels were crisp so I did not get the flavor. Changed wine to the sangiovese ($17) which held up to the richness of the beef cheek ravioli. That dish was so rich I could not finish so I befriended my neighbors who gladly shared my left overs. They then shared their heirloom tomato/ mozzerella salad and procutte appetizers. The rabbit was wild salmon were tasty too. Two quartinos later -too buzzed for dessert- but was served 4 beautiful tiny cookies presented with my check. Perfect. What was the best thing I ate there-the wonderful bread sticks (I'm from Chicago-gotta have my bread)! Could have munched on them all night.

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I've dined at Babbo 3 times and have been supremely satisfied after each visit. The food, in my opinion, is superb, and I salivate every time I think of the sweetbreads and the beef cheek ravioli--not to mention the desserts, which I never miss.

First, the decor, music, crowds, etc.: I agree that the place is crowded, but that only bothered me while I was waiting for a table. Once I was seated in the back section of the downstairs, I barely noticed the tables at my sides. And despite some reports here that you don't have to wait too long if you are without a reservation and can walk-in and will be seated immediately, I would say--it's a risk!! One time, I waited nearly 2 hours for one of those walk-in-only tables, only to find myself too much in the middle of the bar crowd once seated. Had a phenomenal meal, but it was really too crowded and distracting for me (at least before the quartinos of wine started a-flowin'). I remember hearing rock, but, again, I don't recall it being too overwhelming or loud. Not a distraction for me. Love the feel of the place all around.

Now onto the food: Everyone's already hit on my favorites and the dishes to try. My favorites are the sweetbreads, which I've ordered all 3 times--atop sweet red onions with bitter-sweet slivers of orange rind and the spice of fennel. Delicious!!! I loved all of the pastas I've had--beefcheek ravioli in the rich, balsamic butter sauce and the goat cheese and orange tortelloni. These, especially, were very delicate. Would love to try the pasta tasting menu. One memorable appetizer was marinated sardines atop a pickled, vegetable salad. These were fresh little sardines. Overall I would concentrate on the pastas, entrees, and desserts. When I've gone we've each gotten an app., split a plate or two of pasta, and each had an entree. I'd split the apps. and indulge on the pasta and entrees--but leave room for dessert!

I once had an enlightening discussion with the pastry chef, Gina diPalma (sp?) about her experiences working in kitchens. She's a passionate, opinionated, and spunky woman--and a skilled pastry chef. I still remember the apple fritters with caramel ice cream.

One memorable experience at Babbo unrelated to the food put me face-to-face with Michael Imperioli of Sopranos fame. Now, I don't know if this is sacrilege on the NY board (seeing as I am usually on the Jersey board), but that was truly exciting for me. I know celebrities are people like us and that as a former New Yorker I shouldn't get excited about such things, but come on! It capped off an already great night. :biggrin:

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One memorable experience at Babbo unrelated to the food put me face-to-face with Michael Imperioli of Sopranos fame.

I've actually seen at least two episodes of Molto Mario where he has been one of the guests.

I think its cool that when he introduces people on the show, Mario just says "these are my friends, Michael, Tom and Bob (or whatever)" regardless of whether they are an actor, another chef or staff from one of his restaurants.

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Ate at Babbo this past weekend... ordered the pasta tasting with the wine pairings. Was seriously disappointed by the Pappardelle Bolognese and the Marco's Pyramids with Passato di Pomodoro, both of which were very bland compared to the other courses (all of which were phenomenal).

It seemed like the primary intent of the Pappardelle was to fill you up so you wouldn't leave hungry (the portion was much larger than the other dishes and it was served last before the cheese and dessert courses). Did anyone else feel the same way?

I also found some of the wine pairings underwhelming, especially in the reds.

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It seemed like the primary intent of the Pappardelle was to fill you up so you wouldn't leave hungry (the portion was much larger than the other dishes and it was served last before the cheese and dessert courses).  Did anyone else feel the same way?

I took my hubby to Babbo on 8/10 to celebrate his 40th bday. He's extremely fond of pasta, so we had the pasta tasting plus wine pairings. I did feel the portion of pappardelle was larger to make sure diners left feeling full...I sure did! I didn't find it lackluster in comparison to the other courses, however, because I love bolognese and Mario's rendition is much much tastier than mine (although nobody's has compared to the version I had at a tiny Italian cafe in Paris 20 years ago!).

All in all, the meal was pretty fabulous. My favorite pasta course was the first one - black tagliatelle with roasted corn and parmiggiano in a butter sauce. Everything sang in that dish, and I plan to re-create it this weekend, sans the squid-ink. And my favorite wine was the one paired with the Coach farms cheese course. The name escapes me, but it was an effervescent red dessert wine that tasted strongly of blackcurrent. Our captain called it "Kool-Aid."

The wobbly breast-like panna cotta had us in giggles, but it was delicious, as was my peach crostada with honey vanilla gelato and fennel pollen. Unfortunately, my husband suffered an allergic reaction to the pollen and sneezed for a while after dinner!

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