Babbo NYC: Chef Mario Batali’s Flagship Restaurant
Chef Mario Batali's flagship restaurant Babbo NYC is as famous for its astonishing array of pastas (and for its Fennel Dusted Sweetbreads…and its Grilled Octopus…and its Olive Oil Gelato…and its…well, you get the idea) as it is notorious for the difficulty of getting a reservation. The solution, as we discovered just last weekend? Babbo's bar. It seems that every night here at Chef Mario Batali's now 12-year-long celebration of fine Italian food and wine, about a dozen seats are available at the bar, full dinner menu, first come, first served, starting at 5:00 sharp and ending deep into the night. And while the bar stools don't have backs, and it can get a little elbowy as waiting diners reach over you for their drinks, for the most part the Babbo NYC bar is a surprisingly comfortable–and definitely convivial–dining experience. And, of course, there's that pasta…
Being first time Babbo-ites (though not total Chef Mario Batali restaurant newbies: the low-priced Otto has long been a go-to Central Village spot, though it does get almost unbearably loud; and we had an amazing dinner at Del Posto a few years back), we decided not to mess around, and went straight for the eight-course Pasta Tasting Menu at Babbo NYC: five pasta dishes plus one savory/sweet intermezzo, plus two desserts, equals one long, luxurious, deeply satisfying dinner.
Everything was very good at Babbo NYC, no question, but we definitely had our favorites. The Garganelli with Funghi Trifolati, for example, was spectacular, the earthy truffled mushrooms, simply sauteed in olive oil and garlic, dumped onto the thick, toothsome tubes of pasta, topped with a grate or three of goat cheese. Amazing. The Casunzei with Poppy Seeds, a trio of sweet and creamy beet and potato pasta pockets in a buttery sauce, the scattering of poppy hitting just the right finishing note, was also pretty perfect.
The three other pastas at Babbo NYC were quite good as well: a wonderfully inky Black Tagliatelle with Peas and Castelmagno, a goatish cheese; four plump and chewy Domingo's Pyramids filled with braised shredded beef and topped by a velvety Passato di Pomodoro; and for the macaroni finale, a classic Pappardelle Bolognese, nicely balanced, meaty and smooth.
That's five plates of rich and delicious pasta, but we were far from done at this Chef Mario Batali restaurant. A Frittelle d' Ananas was next, a traditional Sicilian pairing (or so we were told) of ricotta and pineapple, done up in a fritter and placed atop of a drizzle of warm honey. This was fine, but it was the next course, the first real dessert, that hit the sweet spot, an insanely intense Chocolate al Diavolo (given the name, we expected a chili-chocolate dish, but this was pure cocoa-bean goodness). Finally, a good two hours after we first sat down at the Babbo NYC bar, came the Tyrolean Carrot and Poppyseed Cake with Olive Oil and Orange Gelato, well composed, impeccably executed, sending us out the door on a refreshing, citrusy note.
Chef Mario Batali's Restaurant: Babbo NYC Details
Babbo NYC Ristorante is located on Waverly Place just west of Washington Square Park. The line for walk-in seating starts forming a little before 5:00, when the doors open. When we were there on a Saturday night, seats at the bar did open up occasionally, as late as 7:00. The restaurant serves dinner until around 11:00 every night. Click for more information and the complete Babbo NYC menu.