On this 4th of July, my friends and I were able to land a reservation at Babbo, an Italian restaurant co-owned by Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. Nestled on Waverly Place in quaint Greenwich Village, the 2-door entrance gives way to a dimly lit, almost cavernous bar area, surrounded by intimate and dark booths. Toward the back of the room, a double staircase leads to the bright and airy dining room on the second level. With white washed walls, white linen tables, and a bounty of afternoon sunlight – it was a dramatic contrast to the downstairs parlor.
While we browsed the menu and sipped our wine, a small plate of chickpea bruschetta arrived at the table. Tangy from the balsamic dressing, and nutty from the chickpeas – it was a pleasant way to start the meal.
My friends K and Z had done their homework, and without too much deliberation selected our appetizers. I was initially a bit skeptical about the lamb tongue, but the thin slices of lamb were so well disguised and so well seasoned in the dish, that I could hardly tell if I was eating lamb or mushroom. The “three-minute” egg precariously placed on top also served to further disguise the tongue, which I definitely appreciated.
The grilled octopus with mixed beans dressed in a vinaigrette was one of the best octopus dishes I have ever had. It was tender and cooked to perfection. Lightly salted and dressed with a tangy and sweet sauce. The creamy beans added another dimension to the overall sophistication of the dish. The right amount of teasing and pleasing. Delicious.
I ordered the Black Spaghetti with rock shrimp, little bits of bacon (or pancetta maybe), as well as thin slices of chilies. The pasta was cooked on the al dente side, and was simply robed in a mildly spiced oil. The texture of the dish was fun and the presentation dramatic (I am still looking for squid ink to try this at home), and while the flavors were made present and the rock shrimp perfectly cooked, I don’t know that the dish is worth all the praise we had read about on Yelp or Chowhound.
My friend K ordered the lobster spaghettini, tossed in a very good homemade tomato sauce and generous serving of lobster. I had a few bites of the dish and while you could taste the garlic and the freshness of the tomatoes, I wasn’t necessarily blown away.
Our friend Z ordered the mint ravioli, or love letters, generously bathed in a lamb sausage ragu. Of the 3 pasta dishes, this one was the most unique and delicious. The minty ravioli filling, while strong, not overwhelming, and paired really well with the heavier, meatier sauce. The ravioli shell itself was done perfectly – the right texture with the right amount of tenderness. If I ever go back to Babbo again, this will definitely be a repeat dish, though my only complaint is that the portion was so small!
On the side, we had an order of roasted beets and farro, cooked to resemble a risotto, or a “farrotto” as the restaurant called it. The beets were sweet, and the texture was amazing – really different from the (sometimes poorly executed) risotto you sometimes find. Overall, a really great side dish.
For dessert, we had the fig bread pudding with ice cream and the blueberry crostata. I personally preferred the “budino” over the crostata, with its hints of cardamom and nutmeg- warm spices to complement the honey and ice cream. The blueberry crostata was perfectly executed – flaky crust, tart berries, and refreshing cream – though we would have been infinitely more satisfied with ice cream instead. We completed the meal with cute petits fours – one resembled a chocolate crackle cookie, another was a caraway biscotti, and the last was some kind of a marshmallowy-meringue-nutty thing that I absolutely loved, though regret not remembering what it was called. I would love to recreate that little pillow of deliciousness at some point in the future.
All in all, the meal at Babbo was good, though I am not sure it was worth the pretty penny or the hassle of the reservations. Babbo is one of the trendiest and most popular restaurants in town, though for me, a second visit is unlikely. Next on my list, however, are definitely Del Posto and a stop at Jonathan Waxman’s Barbuto. Until next time food lovers.