"Is Babbo touristy?"
That was a question my friend asked me when I recommended that he try it. He mentioned loving Otto and therefore I asked, "Have you tried Babbo?" His response: "I haven't tried Babbo yet, but is it a touristy type place? They tend to not fair so well (Otto being my known exception). I'm more of a mom 'n' pop hole-in-the-wall type guy for my Italian."
I don't know where to start to answer this. Part of me thinks if he doesn't understand, he doesn't deserve to try Babbo! The other part wants to explain that it's only "touristy" because it is the best.
Also, as far as mom & pop Italian, what else should I recommend other than Franks?
for mom & pop italian, i suggest pinochio on 91st & 1st. the food is really good & the owner, Mark, waits on all the tables and is very sweet.
I think your friend might like Campanile. While not exactly a hole-in-the-wall, it is located on a side street (E. 29th) and pretty much functions under the radar, i.e., definitely *not* a tourist destination. Even though it's in our neighborhood and we'd passed it countless times, we finally got around to trying it a few months ago and couldn't believe how good it was. The traditional Italian food served there was perfectly prepared and delicious; service was efficient, and the ambiance was very pleasant.
Touristy? Maybe he just doesn't like lines and the fact that they'll ony give researvations to non celebrities at the beginning and end of the evening.
It is possible that your friend thinks that since Babbo has received so much mainstream attention in restaurant guides, newspaper reviews and the recent book Heat (very good book by the way), and is widely known, that tourists will immediately flock there ala Pastis, Da Silvano,etc. Babbo is an exception since it is very difficult to get a reservation. It remains somewhat "exclusive". For a "mom and pop" type Italian, I like Da Andrea or Le Zie. Bianca also may work. Crispo is great but not sure if it has the mom and pop feel.
It is hard to think of Babbo as being "touristy". When I think of touristy, I think of places like the Hard Rock Cafe, Harley Davidson, the Brooklyn Diner, and other man-made disasters.
Without question, tourists, visitors, gourmands one and all probably flock to Babbo based on any number of factors, including the rep, Batali's celebrity, reviews, etc. But Babbo is, above all, a food lover's place. It will attract tourists, sure. But then, so will the Metropolitan Museum of Art - seemingly thousands per day. Would your friend avoid seeing an original Picasso or Rembrandt simply because he might be standing near a few out-of-towners?