Babbo – Italian – West Village
December 20th, 2010 by plumpdumpling

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

Rating One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

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)

15 Responses  
  • Tina writes:
    December 20th, 201011:34 amat

    Pappardelle is one of my favorites too. You are right about fresh vs. boxed pasta… when I go on and on about it “just being better” I sound pretentious, but it is just so good.

    My mom and I make pasta and gnocchi a lot but I haven’t mastered doing it by myself… it’s definitely a two-man job for us.

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      December 21st, 201011:51 amat

      Yeah, it sucks to be all, “Pomp, pomp, pomp,” and then someone asks you why it’s better, and you can think to say is, “It just IS.” I guess what Jim said below is as good a reason as any, though: fresher is just better.

      Even after watching a million cooking shows where people make pasta in 20 minutes, I still didn’t believe people were making it at home. Gnocchi is my absolute favourite, and I am jealous.

  • Heesa Phadie writes:
    December 20th, 201011:37 amat

    That pappardelle looks stupendous. I will dream of that tonite myself (same goes for that tortelli).

    How was that goat cheese and honey. It looks amazing! There are a whole lot of “dessert” courses. Which was your favorite?

    Wow, 5 whole donuts! Glad you persisted on getting a table here. Sounds like it was worth it.

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      December 21st, 201011:56 amat

      I thought the goat cheese was awesome! But Kamran actually has sick feelings when he thinks about how intensely-flavored it was, especially after several glasses of the paired wine. One of my very favourite NYC memories is hanging out at a friend’s house and being fed Epoisses and truffle honey, though, so I just have good associations with cheese and honey plates. Glurg glurg glurg.

      My favourite of the desserts was the caramelized fig. The natural sweetness of the fig and the natural sweetness of the mascarpone with the bitterness of the orange–dreamy.

  • Jim writes:
    December 20th, 201012:52 pmat

    The tart looks to me like a berry frangipani.

    Also I think the reason fresh pasta tastes so much better is because, well, it’s fresh. In the industry we have a saying – fresh is best. Mostly I suspect it’ll be the eggs, a nice olive oil (if you use it in the pasta), the right amount of seasoning. Simple.

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      December 21st, 20101:11 pmat

      How funny! Frangipani is one of my favourite words ever, precisely because I have no idea how to pronounce it. FRAN-jih-pan-ee or fran-JIH-pah-nee or fran-jih-pah-NEE? I don’t care; they’re all great! So it’d be fun if I had it without even realizing.

      You’re totally right: fresher is just better. Just like better-quality ingredients are just better. I won’t apologize for liking fresh pasta anymore.

  • Mrs. Bachelor Girl writes:
    December 20th, 20101:28 pmat

    Wow, I’d never even heard of sformato. Must seek out.

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      December 21st, 20101:28 pmat

      Oh, not like I had before that night, either. If I ever accidentally come across as knowing anything, please excuse me.

  • Ells writes:
    December 20th, 20104:01 pmat

    See, I was thinking the fruit looked like clafouti, but I don’t know enough about food to know what the Italian version of that would be.

    • plumpdumpling writes:
      December 21st, 20102:25 pmat

      I was just Googling, and apparently a lot of people think clafouti(s) are Italian, so I’ll bet you’re onto something. That Batali thought he could slip it by you unnoticed.

  • Sammy Skye writes:
    December 24th, 201010:07 amat

    im usually not that impressed by italian food. but this post made me extremely jealous. babbo is now on my “must go” list. i need the duck tortellini!!!

  •» Blog Archive » The Tasting Menu at Hearth – Italian/American (New) – East Village writes:
    September 14th, 201111:32 amat

    […] good pasta always reminds me that I want to eat more good pasta. The pappardelle at Babbo completely changed my expectations, and although this wasn’t life-altering, it was very nice. […]

  • NYC Restaurant Reviews » Five-Donut Reviews writes:
    April 6th, 20125:48 pmat

    […] donuts: dinners not fit for the dogs Reviews Alta Aquavit Asiate Babbo Bareburger Becco Big Daddy's Big D's Grub Truck Boi Sandwich Bouchon Bakery The Breslin […]

  • A Day in the Life — Unapologetically Mundane writes:
    March 14th, 201312:01 pmat

    […] Saturday, Kamran and I went to Babbo for lunch despite having been to another Mario Batali restaurant recently and thinking it was just […]

  • NYC Restaurant Reviews » The Lunch Tasting Menu at Babbo writes:
    March 27th, 20133:01 pmat

    […] first trip to Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s Babbo was way, way back in 2010, before we had visited […]

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