Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Quando la pera e matura

Given the fulness of my weekend and all the things I have to say about it, I have debated the order of this story. But I think I will start with my review of Babbo. Hooray!

Being an avid reader of Zagat's, I am aware that Babbo is consistently rated as one of the finest restaurants in New York. And as there are few people in my life who are as expert in Italian food as Kate, I thought she would be the perfect companion for my foodie sojourn.

Our tale begins one month prior when I forgot to call at 10am on the dot to make reservations. As 11am rolled around, I realized my error and called the reservation hotline. After about ten minutes on hold, I made it through, but the only times left for April 23rd were 5:30, 5:45, 10:30, and 11. I took the 5:45pm.

Kate and I arrived early, with the intention of having a glass of wine at the bar. However, the restaurant, which opens at 5pm for dinner was already crammed with people in the bar area. We elbowed our way to the maitre d's stand and were checked off. As it turned out, the actual restaurant itself was nearly empty, but every bar seat was taken, with people munching away. There were also approximately five tables near the bar. These tables are not reserved and are available on a first-come, first-served basis, hence the early crowd.

The maitre d seated us in the downstairs dining area. We were truly seated in a perfect location. First, the main serving table was right next to us, so we could eye everyone else's food. Second, we had an excellent vantage to people watch - Kate and I are enormous fans of critiquing other people's clothing. Some would call us "catty bitches," which is probably a fair assessment. And right behind me was an enormous arrangement of cherry blossoms - one of my all-time favorites. Oh yes, and the lighting. Everyone looks pretty in that lighting.

Now, on to the important stuff. The
wine list for Babbo is completely ridiculous - I know nothing about Italian wine, but if you're a fan, you've come to the right place. But luckily, our sommelier had a suggestion after we explained what type of red wine we were looking for and how much we wanted to spend. Big ups to Babbo's sommelier (who was also wearing a fantastic shirt and tie combination).

Next came our waiter. Kate and I were overwhelmed by the choices on the regular menu, so the waiter recommended that we go with the pasta tasting menu. It is, as he put it, what the restaurant is known for.

First up: Black tagliatelle with fresh peas and parmigiano. It came with a fantastic creamy green sauce. According to the restaurant's website:

"We import pasta, Parmigiano Reggiano, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and Prosciutto San Daniele because they are so distinct and virtually indispensable to the creation of a great Italian meal. We fervently believe in the inherent quality, freshness and greatness of our regions ingredients purchased from local, predominantly organic, farmers and friends, many of them from forgotten or heirloom varietals. "

The pasta itself was incredible. I simply can't compare it to anything I've ever had before. And the parmigiano - I wish they had just dropped the entire brick on the table, because I could have eaten the whole thing on some of the Italian bread that they brought us.

Next course was the half-moon raviolis stuffed with fresh herbs and ricotta and served with a buttery scallion sauce. Excellent and the filling had a very sharp taste.

This was followed by Kate's favorite of the night - garganelli with funghi trifolati and a light oil and garlic sauce. The mushrooms were unbelievably fresh. Next up - Marco's pyramids, which are a cross between ravioli and tortolloni. They were filled with stewed beef shoulder and served with a fresh tomato sauce.

By this point, I was so stuffed that when they brought out the pappardelle bolognese, I thought I might explode. And that would be my one complaint about Babbo's - the meal was too rushed. More on that in a moment. I thought that the pappardelle was excellent, and the bolognese was fine. But it seemed to me that they used turkey meat, which seems a little odd. Kate found the bolognese sauce disappointing, especially when followed by the tagliatelle and the garganelli.

The cheese course was fresh mozarella with blood orange (lovely). And for dessert, they brought us a saffron panna cotta with mango sorbet and a warm pineapple crostata with buttered rum gelato. The pineapple and rum gelato were the standout on that count.

We wrapped things up with some grappa and a cappuccino, naturally.

The good - the food, of course. It was, for the most part, simply fantastic. The service was adequate, although we both wished that our waiter had been better about telling us what ingredients were in each course (he did occasionally pop up for that purpose, but not with any consistency).

The only real disappointment for me was how quickly the food came out. It felt as if we did not have enough time to process what we had just eaten before the next course had arrived. In a way, it felt as if we were being rushed along for the next reservation, although when we took our time eating dessert and drinking our cappuccinos, we did not feel rushed. Anyway, the quickness of the food meant that by the time the pappardelle rolled around, I was not enjoying the food as much because I had filled up so quickly. This was particularly noticeable to Kate and I, as we enjoyed an excellent tasting menu at 1789 in Georgetown, where the pace of the food was absolutely perfect.

Still, on the whole, it was an excellent meal and I would certainly recommend it to fans of perfectly executed Italian food. Just make sure that you call one month in advance for a reservation!


  1. Lauren in the Kans9:26 AM

    Excellent review! I forwarded it to Bill and he was also very impressed, except he made a snooty remark about how you aren't supposed to have cappuchino at night, that you're supposed to have espresso at night and cappuchino for breakfast. : )

  2. Mike and I received a gift certificate to Babbo from his office staff as a wedding gift. After your review, I can't WAIT to go!! Thanks Megan :)