It’s hard to get into Mario Batali’s Babbo. They don’t do online reservations, and week after week when I called, they would tell me they were full. At one point, my boyfriend and I said, “Screw Batali! We don’t want his relatively cheap ($75) tasting menu with also-cheap ($50) wine pairings if it means being jerked around like this!” But once we finally did get in, we realized why the place is always full and why our persistence was totally worth it.
We sat in the upstairs portion, which has a lovely skylight that made me excited to take photos. The problem was that as the sun set, so did the quality of my photos, so please excuse the varying lightness.
The Traditional Tasting Menu with wine pairings:
amuse: chickpea bruschetta, black olive paste
duck bresaola, sweet pea sformato
“Vespa Bianco”, Bastianich 2007
This was my first sformato, a kind of molded creamy custard. It’s a texture I definitely associate with dessert, so the sweetness of the peas pleased me.
pappardelle, morels, thyme
“Baceabianca”, Tenuta Grillo 2004
This is the dish I still dream about. It’s hard to even describe what makes homemade pasta so incredibly different and better than boxed pasta–maybe it’s the texture? Fresh pasta is much grittier and more tender. I’ve grown to love fresh pappardelle in particular because it has no rigid shape and can be cut however I please. For me, this is the pasta by which all other pastas are measured.
duck tortelli with “sugo finto” (“fake sauce”, or meat sauce without the meat)
Ruché di Castagnole, Cascina ‘Tavijn 2007
grilled hanger steak, royal trumpet mushrooms, cipolline agrodolce
Aglianico del Vulture, Basilisco 2002
Coach Farms’ (NY) finest goat cheese, fennel honey
Franciacorta Brut, Cavalleri NV
This was the point in the meal where my boyfriend started feeling overwhelmed by the tasting menu. Between the many glasses of wine and the richness of the dishes, I thought he was going to wimp out on me. I don’t really understand the idea of finding food too intense, though; I just can’t be sympathetic. And I like anything-flavored honey.
fico in mosto: carmelized fig, mascarpone, orange peel
“Sommo”, Colli di Serrapetrona Passito 2006
chocolate “al diavolo”
Malvasia delle Lipari Passito, Hauner 2007
peach and raspberry budino, honey butter, honey vanilla gelato
Brachetto d’Acqui “Le Donne dei Boschi” Ca’ dei Mandorli 2009
fruit tart that strangely wasn’t on the menu
almond biscotti, chocolate baci, almond meringue cookies
I understand that people love Italian food–and I theoretically do, too–but I’ve been disappointed time and time again by boring, bland Italian food in this city. And if you were to ask me my top five restaurants in the city overall, I’m not sure I’d actually put Babbo in that list, but for what it is and the kind of food they do, I think they’re doing it better than anyone in their category.
110 Waverly Place
New York, NY 10011 (map)