Monday, July 22, 2013

New York: Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca

tween angst
:Greenwich Village:
I've been waiting a long time to eat here. In fact, it took me ten years to get here. It didn't completely disappoint, but it wasn't close to anything I had imagined.
My New Yorker friends didn't praise Babbo to begin with. They had medicore experiences with both food and service. I'm inclined to think it's maybe going through some 15 year angst. It's been around long enough that they've lost some of that early romance, but not yet old enough to be embraced with unconditional respect.
Let's start with the strangest thing that ever happened to me. As I was about to enter the restaurant, another patron came out and spat on the door. No seriously. I wish I could share the drama, but Babbo's servers didn't dish out any details. In fact, they just smiled when I told them and quickly had someone clean it up. It's too bad their professionalism didn't quench my curiosity.
Babbo's parents are Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich. If you watch Food Network you know these two well. Babbo is tucked away in Greenwich Village on a quiet dimly lit street. It was once a beloved Italian eatery and enoteca, but I would say it's fine Italian dining in a quintessential New York atmosphere - attentive and cordial table service.
The dishes were beautifully and expertly presented. Our server knew the food, although his explanation sounded much more like a product or regurgitation and repetition than passionate appreciation.
We liked the food. And I think Babbo's prices are also the appeal. It's a well-priced menu of thoughtfully crafted dishes made with some of the best proteins, freshest produce and finest pantry items. I would say that their serving sizes actually work against them since we weren't guided by our server. I specifically asked him if our selection of antipastis, primis, and secondis  would be too much food; he dismissed my suggestion. It clearly  was too much. How is that a bad thing? Answer, when you are too full to enjoy your outstanding main. And in the case of my main, it was a shame I couldn't eat it all. I genuinely got choked up because tourists forgo doggie bags since the food will just go to waste. Yes, I left a lot of it behind.
It was obvious by the end of my meal that there was only one clear standout - a single dish that made me happy I finally made it to Babbo. To say that only one dish made the cut is sad, but one is better than none. 
Scroll to end if you just can't wait.
Roasted Beet Tartare with Chianti Vinegar and Ricotta Salata  $14
Black Spaghetti with Rock Shrimp, Spicy Salami Calabrese and Green Chilies  $27
Everything (and there's a lot going on here) seamlessly worked together to make every bite.
Chianti Stained Pappardelle with Wild Boar Ragu  $23A bit too gamey and rich for me.
At last, drumroll please...

Whole Grilled Branzino with Mixed Radishes, Olives and Lemon Oregano Jam  $29
Top 5 fish I've ever eaten in a restaurant.
It was without a doubt, spectacular.Perfectly grilled, moist, tender, flaky, meaty, and so delicate. Loved it.
I would go back to Babbo for that branzino. It alone made Babbo worth it. Take it out of the equation, and -- . 

Remember, my silence is golden.

Note: The bathroom upstairs is one of the worst. It does not belong in an award winning, critically acclaimed restaurant. How so? Well, the toilet is so close to the front wall that one can barely get their legs in. No joke. Joke's on me...welcome to a gastronomic superstar restaurant, please use extreme caution when using facilities. In the words of Momma GG, c'mmmmooooonnnn.

Babbo on Urbanspoon

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