- Alex Mar 15, 1999 11:42 AM
Message to Mario Batali - get your house in order.
While I absolutely love(d) the food at Babbo during
numerous visits, I will never return to the restaurant.
Babbo is plagued by a sympton suffered by all too many
"restaurants of the moment." The management begins to
truly believe that it is a privilege to dine at their
restaurant and that they are more important than the
Since I dined at the restaurant often before their 3
star NY Times review, I was able to see the
transformation first hand. They used to treat their
guests as welcomed friends. They would go out of their
way to accomodate patrons and couldn't have been more
gracious. Then like clockwork, everything changed.
The maitre d', in a laughable parody of power going to
one's head, began to barely acknowledge our existence,
to roll his eyes at customers making reasonable
seating requests, to preside over his list like some
3rd rate Steve Rubell.
The waitstaff itself is competent and generally
friendly and accomodating. But the management, from
the maitre d' to the wine steward to Mr. Bastianch
himself, has a serious attitude problem. You would
figure that any decently run restaurant would treat
all customers well, but at the very least would make
some attempt to recognize their loyal patrons and at
least try to act as if they were happy to see you.
Perhaps greet you when you enter, honor a request to
be seated downstairs, apologize when you are forced to
wait 40 minutes for your table, not seat you at a four
person table when you are a party of six.
Although the food is truly exceptional, no food is so
good that I would ever be willing to put up with
attitude that accompanies the meal. Hopefully Mario,
who seems to be a decent person and is unquestionably
a wonderful cook, will solve the problem before it is
too late. But then again, this is NY, the only city
where a great many people actually enjoy being treated
like crap, feel as if a restaurant's greatness is
truly affirmed only after they are forced to suffer
through a great many indignities, because, hey, only a
really great restaurant would be able to get away with
such behavior, and besides, could the throng of
patrons busting down the door all be wrong? Well for
those people, Babbo may be your perfect restaurant.
kudos to you alex. it breaks my heart to hear stories
like this.as an owner of a restaurant i know that we
survive on the support of our regulars.i suggest that
you write a letter to the powers that be-including all
the thunder from your message at chowhound-and perhaps
you will enlighten and inform those that need to know
what's happening in their establishment.i would hope-at
the very least-you receive an apology as well as in
invitation to have dinner as their guest in order to
repair the damage.we should never forget who is paying
the bill which then buys the food,pays the rent, pays
the staff,pays the insurance, pays the con-ed,pays the
advertisers,pays the chef,etc. etc.Good Luck.
I normally would not go out of my way to criticize a
restaurant like I have done here, but our treatment,
and the treatment of many others that I have spoken
with about Babbo, has been so poor that it truly
merited some type of response.
And I agree with you, the place was really special
when it first opened. It was without a doubt one of
my favorite restaurants, the place where I would take
family members and out of town guests, and where I
would constantly recommend when people asked for
restaurant suggestions (there is probably even
evidence of such recommendations on these boards). So
to force me to do a complete about face was not an
I did happen to see the nomination. Babbo has had a
great deal of hype over the last year (some of it,
especially when it comes to the food, actually
deserved), and I would not be surprised if it wins the
award - unless the judges visit the restaurant
anonomously and actually make a request of the
I must strongly disagree with your comments on the staff at Babbo. The first time I ventured in there, very casually dressed I might add, I was treated far better than I expected. Actually I had suggested to my friend that we leave as we weren't "dressed" but the hostess assured us that we were fine. I am 35 years old and grew up in the restaurant business. Trust me this I did not expect. The staff was as wonderful as the wine and food. I will frequent Babbo as often as I can, actually going there tomorrow, and this time I will don the appropriate cashmere and leather!
I hope you will give it another shot. Everyone has their off days.