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Babbo


gmi3804
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I got my reservation today after 30 minutes of 3 line redialing and look forward to trying the pasta tasting - 1 month from now. Will report back.

Dough can sense fear.

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I've never gone with a reservation, walk-in is the way to go for me. We eat late, usually after 9 PM. I prefer Lupa to Babbo, I'm not big on the maitre d' nor some of the attending snobbery and theatrics that he brings to the restaurant.

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I've never gone with a reservation, walk-in is the way to go for me.  We eat late, usually after 9 PM.  I prefer Lupa to Babbo, I'm not big on the maitre d' nor some of the attending snobbery and theatrics that he brings to the restaurant.

On our visit to Babbo I would say The Maitre'd was the only unpleasant part of the whole experience.

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I've never gone with a reservation, walk-in is the way to go for me.  We eat late, usually after 9 PM.  I prefer Lupa to Babbo, I'm not big on the maitre d' nor some of the attending snobbery and theatrics that he brings to the restaurant.

On our visit to Babbo I would say The Maitre'd was the only unpleasant part of the whole experience.

if it's the guy i think it is, he's famous for being that guy.

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I find it interesting that so many people seem to hold the opinion that the pasta dishes are the real interest at Babbo and that the secondi are lower in quality.

Many of the secondi there I think are among the best of their kind. Standouts I've had are their grilled branzino with roasted cardoons, duck cabbage and speck, grilled quail, rabbit with brussels sprouts and pancetta, the grilled pork chop, the fennel dusted sweetbreads with sweet and sour onions, duck bacon and membrillo vinegar (one of the best sweetbread dishes in the City), an the "deconstructed" ossobuco for two. All of these dishes, IMO, more than stand up to the pasta dishes in interest and quality. That said, the pasta dishes are excellent, of course, and I think it's also possible that they may hold more immediate appeal to those who are not as familiar with the "Italian way with protein." Still, though, I'd feel that I was missing out if I were to dine at Babbo only on pasta.

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if it's the guy i think it is, he's famous for being that guy.

His reputation does precede him. Anymore, I don't even bother to check with him when I walk-in and just ask the guys behind the bar. After eating at Babbo regularly for years, there has never been any display of friendliness or recognition from him. The only time he ever acknowledged knowing me was when I had reserved a table with visiting friends. "Well, I see you have a reservation this evening." :laugh: At least everyone else at Babbo is friendly enough to make up for him though.

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  • 1 month later...

I finally was able to get down to New York as I had been wanting to try the pasta tasting menu. It did not disappoint. We went with the riserva wine flight (not necessary in retrospect)

Black Tagliatelle with Peas and Parmigiano

Sauvignon Ronco Delle mele Venica 2004

The first course turned out to be one of the best. Fresh but toothsome squid ink pasta with super fresh peas in a butter sauce blended with pureed peas.

Asparagus and Ricotta “mezzalune” with Scallion Butter

Tocai Friulano Raccaro 2004

Semilunar shaped as the name Italian implies, the ravioli were accented with Aspargus and thyme and were fairly solid, although not extraordinary. Having said that, one of us at the table dubbed it their dish of the night. Whatevah.

Beef Cheek Ravioli with Crushed Squab Liver sauce and Black Truffle.

Vespa Bianco Bastianich 2000

This is an entrée choice on the a la carte menu and not included as part of the tasting menu but since I had heard good things about it, we added it as a course. God Forbid I lose my standing as a bleeding heart gulleteer. In actuality, this is really my kind of plate. No one flavor dominated and it was great to taste the liver, truffle and meat without one ingredient outdueling the other.

Garganelli with Funghi Trifolati

Barolo Vigna dei Dardi Fontino 1997

This was my favorite and the favorite of most of us at the table. Coming from the latin word for trachea, this tube shaped pasta looked like – well like little tracheas and I have seen them - like for real. It was in a butter sauce mixed with a few varieties of mushrooms. The sauce was just outta sight. I would have sworn there was animal fat in it as there was a feel and taste of such but I was told without equivocation that this is a vegetarian friendly plate. Well, Gandhi would have been proud of this one.

Fernando’s Pyramids with Passato di Pomodoro

Aglianico del vulture Minarco Sasso 2002

While not too creative, this plate was a preparation of pouches, filled with what I cannot recall. Nonetheless, it was simple and tasty. Heavily perfumed with EVOO in a concentrated simple and bright tomato sauce. If you haven't had Aglianico yet, this one was really good. I dig Campanian wines in general though.

Pappadelle Bolognese

Carmigniano Villa dei Cappezzana 2003

Not the best for last, this plate was good but nothing more than a well prepared plate of pasta in a veal Bolognese sauce. The wine however, 90% sangiovese spiked with cabernet, was the winner of this round.

Gelatina di Moscato

Moscato D’asti Scrapona Marenco 2005

A dollop of translucent gelatin made with the accompanying wine and sitting in a bath of a strawberry syrup. Alas, a signal that the marathon was coming to a close.

Warm Chocolate Torta “fondente” with Ginger Cream

Sherry Emilia Lustow NV

Not too far off the ubiquitous lava centered chocolate cake theme, a thimble sized warm chocolate cake without a liquid center, served with a tongue tingling ginger cream.

Olive Oil and Rosemary Cake with Olive Oil Gelato

Upside Down Cherry cake

Panna Cotta with strawberries

Mixed Berry Tart like thingy

Muffato Della Sala Antinori 2003 late harvest sauvignon blanc

Why we all got different desserts I am not sure but I can’t argue. The woman next to us was the pastry chef’s mom so dessert was flying outta the back. By then, it was getting super late and even I was hoping the guillotine would fall soon. We were warned it was a lot of food and jeez Louise – it certainly was.

Four and a half hours after sitting down at the table, we waddled, rolled and floated out the front – passing a crowded anteroom of folks still waiting to sit down at 10:30. Gotta luv NY, man.

Dough can sense fear.

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  • 4 weeks later...

My mom is in town right now, and, since she lives in Fresno these days, I try to show her a good culinary time of it when she's here.

Last night, we met a couple of my friends for drinks at Pegu around 7:00, and when we walked out at 8:30, had no idea what we were doing to do for dinner. I remembered that she's never been to Babbo, and decided that it might be worth a shot to walk over and see if we might be able to get a seat at the bar for a little dinner.

And we did! About five minutes after walking in, we were seated at the bar, where Ken helped us pick a couple of great wines. We started with a quartino of the Barbera and Armadino's salumi. The salumi were great - a lamb coppa, I think, and a spicy sausage of some kind, served with grilled bread. We didn't stuff ourselves (which, maybe, means we didn't do the done thing :laugh:), but just got a primo each. I had the orechiette with lamb sausage and rapini, which was delicious - hot and spicy and rejuvenating. My mom had the linguine with clams, which was, of course, wonderful. With our pastas, we enjoyed two quartinos of the Fiano di Avellino, which Ken said was the only thing he would drink in this weather - light, crisp, refreshing, and a good foil to Mom's pasta in particular.

I went to the back to use the ladies' room, and peeked into the kitchen - it has a special allure for me now that I've read Heat, and I have to say that the linguine with clams did make me think of Buford's description of his time on the pasta station and the almost alchemical relationship between the briny clams and the long linguine.

For dessert, we had the zeppolini (my mom knew right away that I would want them...what can I say, I love a doughnut), and I enjoyed a glass of Moscato d'Asti while Mom had a Sambuca and a decaf espresso.

Hmmm...only now do I realize how much we drank last night. We must have sweated it off in the heat. :laugh: I'm just so glad I finally got her to Babbo...it was a great night, and she really enjoyed it. One of the better ideas I've had in recent days...

Edited by Megan Blocker (log)

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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  • 1 month later...

Am I the only one who feels that Babbo is slipping? Went there Sunday night. Took our (well-behaved) 13- and 16-year-old girls. First they forgot the girls' drinks (beneath a man of the grape to serve Shirley Temples?) then the somellier simply forgot about us -- after our opening quartinos, we were never approached about a bottle. Another lost sale.

And then...well, how to explain why the bread has burnt crust? "Uh, it's supposed to be that way," I gamely ventured. "But why?" asked the 13-year-old. "Who wants burnt bread?" Who indeed. Speaking of bread, why do we have to ask for the olive oil? I mean, we're dropping over $300 for a meal for four. Can't they at least offer it?

The Marinated Sardine antipasto ($11) consists, I kid you not, of three PARTIAL sardines. That's it. Plus a lump of carmelized fennel and a few drops of what must have been the promised lobster oil.

The Goose Liver ravioli was virtually inedible. Too much balsamic. Too sweet. Flavors did not meld. Simply didn't taste good.

The pappardelle was a bit beyond al dente and skimpy on the sauce, even by Babbo standards.

I've enjoyed many other meals at Babbo, but this experience was far less than stellar. Are Babbo's glory days over? Am I simplyl the last to know?

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And then...well, how to explain why the bread has burnt crust? "Uh, it's supposed to be that way," I gamely ventured. "But why?" asked the 13-year-old. "Who wants burnt bread?" Who indeed. Speaking of bread, why do we have to ask for the olive oil? I mean, we're dropping over $300 for a meal for four. Can't they at least offer it?

The Marinated Sardine antipasto ($11) consists, I kid you not, of three PARTIAL sardines. That's it. Plus a lump of carmelized fennel and a few drops of what must have been the promised lobster oil.

I agree with the bread. Never did like their bread very much. The bread at Lupa is better. About the sardine dish comment - I understand your sentiment, but really high quality sardines are pretty expensive. $11 for the 3 is probably a good value.

Finally, for a while, I thought that Babbo was dropping. But a few recent meals there have changed my mind. Overall, they're less consistent than they used to be, but still, imo, a superb restaurant. I would definitely address those issues you had with the management of the restaurant.

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Maybe the bread isn't the best example. (I still think ours was too black, "supposed to be or not.") But honestly, the ravioli was unpleasant. Not tasty. Not good. And certainly not worth $19.

Edited by Jeffo (log)
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The "burnt crust" bread is likely Pane Pugliese from Sullivan Street Bakery.  It is indeed supposed to be like that (ironically, their picture is one of the lightest colored examples I've seen).

That's exactly where it's from. I love the stuff, just wish it would stay fresh longer when I buy it for home.

Maybe Jeffo just caught a bad night. Babbo has been good on my recent visits, but I've experienced an off night or three over the years. I've always sent the dish in question back w/o problem.

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Maybe the bread isn't the best example. (I still think ours was too black, "supposed to be or not.") But honestly, the ravioli was unpleasant. Not tasty. Not good. And certainly not worth $19.

We ate there once - about 2 years ago - and - except for the pasta course - the meal was rather mediocre (I wrote about it here).

I was surprised to read Bruni's comments about Felidia's a week or two ago. Ate there years ago - thought it was wonderful - and it was surprising to see that Bruni thought it was still excellent after all these years. Next time - try Felidia's. Robyn

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Am I the only one who feels that Babbo is slipping? Went there Sunday night. Took our (well-behaved) 13- and 16-year-old girls. First they forgot the girls' drinks (beneath a man of the grape to serve Shirley Temples?) then the somellier simply forgot about us -- after our opening quartinos, we were never approached about a bottle. Another lost sale.

And then...well, how to explain why the bread has burnt crust? "Uh, it's supposed to be that way," I gamely ventured. "But why?" asked the 13-year-old. "Who wants burnt bread?" Who indeed. Speaking of bread, why do we have to ask for the olive oil? I mean, we're dropping over $300 for a meal for four. Can't they at least offer it?

The Marinated Sardine antipasto ($11) consists, I kid you not, of three PARTIAL sardines. That's it. Plus a lump of carmelized fennel and a few drops of what must have been the promised lobster oil.

The Goose Liver ravioli was virtually inedible. Too much balsamic. Too sweet. Flavors did not meld. Simply didn't taste good.

The pappardelle was a bit beyond al dente and skimpy on the sauce, even by Babbo standards.

I've enjoyed many other meals at Babbo, but this experience was far less than stellar. Are Babbo's glory days over? Am I simplyl the last to know?

sorry that you had a horrible experience.

the glory days aren't over.

Edited by chefboy24 (log)
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  • 5 months later...

Giving Babbo a nudge... anyone care to push back? Someone has got to have eaten there since September of last year... :smile:

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Giving Babbo a nudge... anyone care to push back?  Someone has got to have eaten there since September of last year...  :smile:

u.e.

I can vouch for it through late May. Between two of us we had 6 dishes and not a miss among them.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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there's really not much to say about it that hasn't been said a zillion times.

still has some of the best pasta in the city. apps are generally good. secondi can be inconsistent.

for the Babbo virgin I'd recommend lamb's tongue salad, and several pastas -- maybe the mint-lamb garganelli, the foie gras ravioli, etc....

or go straight for the pasta tasting menu.

as for the secondi, if you must, go for the "Sicilian Lifeguard" calamari...the cheapest entree ($23 I think) and probably the best one on the menu (as I think Reichl wrote way back when it first opened).

if you eat at Babbo, whatever you do, concentrate on pasta.

don't be like a friend of mine who went there and then called me up: "dude, Babbo sucks" "What'd you have?" "Some cured meats, those were good. lamb chops" Which pastas did you have?" "Pasta, I don't eat pasta in restaurants! That's boring. I make pasta at home...why would I want to eat it when I'm out."

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I ate there in mid-October '06 with some friends. It was the arrival of white truffles, and we had what would amounts to the pasta tasting menu, augmented with many additional pasta courses. In fact, here's what we had:

Fettucine with Fresh White Truffles

Black Tagliatelle with Parsnips and Pancetta

Pumpkin "Lune" with Sage and Amaretti

Garganelli with "Funghi Trifolati"

Fernando's Pyramids with "Passato di Pomodoro"

Pappardelle Bolognese

Beef Cheek Ravioli with Crushed Squab Liver and Black Truffles

Though we had a great time, and the service was perfect (although as many of the pastas arrived, we had to wait a few minutes for the cheese and grater to arrive and offer), more of the dishes tasted "phoned-in" than spectacular. The white truffles were thoroughly disappointing, and their pasta disconnected and dull. In particular, the Pyramids and the Bolgnese could actually have been served on an airplane by somebody heating the pastas and sauces and combining them. (And all four people left some of both dishes on their plates uneaten.) Only the Pumpkin Lune had any vibrancy, or sparkle. Everything else was lifeless and the pastas totally disconnected from their sauces. I think "phoned-in" describes it best. I've had these when everything sparkled.

We had many (many) bottles of very delicious and extremely reasonable wines that were suggested to us by a wonderful sommelier, and as I say we all had a great experience. Except for the disappointing food.

There were many desserts, all thoroughly enjoyable.

I hadn't posted about the meal then, but since you're asking...

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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markk.

Thanks for that! I'm sorry everything was "teleported" to you at Babbo on your last visit... sounds almost opposite of what Nathan wrote in the post before yours!

I'll tell you what intrigues me the most about Babbo - they have one of the widest selections of offal of any fine dining restaurant I've noticed. But, other than the goose liver ravioli, I've not really heard much else about the other offal offerings at Babbo.

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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I'll tell you what intrigues me the most about Babbo - they have one of the widest selections of offal of any fine dining restaurant I've noticed.  But, other than the goose liver ravioli, I've not really heard much else about the other offal offerings at Babbo.

u.e.

i'd recommend the lamb's tongue salad as well.

i've always been of the opinion that babbo excels at pasta. excels. the proteins have never blown me away, though. i'm hard pressed to get anything but a mess of pasta when i go.

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... secondi can be inconsistent ...

I've never agreed with this. All the secondi I've had at Babbo have been excellent, and some of them -- I think especially of the fennel dusted sweetbreads with sweet and sour onions, duck bacon and membrillo vinegar -- could compete for best of class in NYC. Certainly I've never had overcooked fish, flavorless squab or insipid veal at Babbo. Rather, I think it is the case that Americans misunderstand the Italian aesthetic when it comes to the protein course. Babbo's pasta dishes are certainly excellent and inventive, but it's also the case that Americans have a paradigm for Italian pasta. This is not true with respect to secondi. For example, Babbo's rabbit with Brussels sprouts, pancetta and carrot vinaigrette is a simple preparation (although actually on the complicated side for Italian cooking) compared to what one might expect at a similarly appointed neo-French restaurant, and it has less "wow factor" than their beef cheek ravioli with crushed squab liver and black truffles... but that doesn't mean that the rabbit is inconsistent or less excellent in its own way. And it does mean that it's correct in the Italian restaurant tradition. I would suggest that anyone expecting an Italian rabbit dish to have the same "wow factor" as Babbo's beef cheek ravioli is going to be disappointed. Rabbit stuffed with foie gras and black truffles in a pool of carrot emulsion, napped with a saffron foam and topped with a Brussels sprout tuille might stack up better against the foie gras ravioli in terms of American "wow factor"... it just wouldn't be Italian.

Among the things I've tried there over the years, the whole grilled branzino with roasted cardoons and lemon oregano jam; the barbecued squab with roasted beet "farrotto" and porcini mustard; the grilled quail with "scorzonera alla romana" and saba; the rabbit with Brussels sprouts, pancetta and carrot vinaigrette; the grilled pork chop with artichokes, cipolline and aceto manodori; the fennel dusted sweetbreads with sweet and sour onions, duck bacon and membrillo vinegar; the "brasato al Barolo" with porcini mushrooms; the deconstructed ossobuco for two with saffron orzo, cavolo nero and chestnut gremolata; and the grilled ribeye for two with roasted potatoes and aceto manodori are all very good. I'd recommend the sweetbreads, and ossobuco for those who want "wow." The pork (sometimes veal?) chop, branzino and ribeye are perhaps too simple for those seeking "wow."

I'll tell you what intrigues me the most about Babbo - they have one of the widest selections of offal of any fine dining restaurant I've noticed.  But, other than the goose liver ravioli, I've not really heard much else about the other offal offerings at Babbo.

Babbo's warm tripe "alla Parmigiana" is one you won't want to miss. Probably my favorite tripe dish in the City. The pig foot "Milanese" and the testa are both good and interesting, although it's a somewhat odd pig foot preparation IMO. The brain ravioli are very good, although I found the pasta a bit less delicate than I would have liked the last time I tried them.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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Maybe it's luck of the draw. I can't stand eggplant, so I've never had Babbo's lamb chops and can't comment. But, as mentioned above, I have had iterations of the lamb's brain ravioli that I thought were less than stellar.

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