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Dec 7, 2007 07:21 AM

What to order at Babbo?

Hey 'hounders,

I'm finally going to Babbo next month after much discussion between a few friends of mine and my flirtation of the idea of making the reservation itself for ages. Anyways, I'm going there next month (in early January).

I would like to know what dishes should me and my three friends should order? I remembered reading several posts that the tasting menu is not necessarily the best route, hence my question.

Thanks in advance!


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  1. Hi Tina,

    You really can't go wrong though I think the lunes are a bit overrated (and too sweet for an entree). I love the mint love letters, the sweetbreads are fairly unique in their presentation, and the lamb's tongue vinaigrette (salad) is excellent. Oh, the beef cheek raviolis were good, but I wouldn't get them again.

    1. The original comment has been removed
      1. you must try the sweetbreads....
        i would also push the beef cheek Ravioli

        the curried meats are also a good option

        1. re: cdog

          Ok, I'm a pretty adventurous eater with one problem - texture. What exactly is the texture of sweetbreads like? It is the only thing keeping me from trying them.

          1. re: swf36d

            ate at Babbo a few days ago. my dad ordered the sweetbreads (for the second time b/c he loved it the first time), and i tried it. it literally as the texture of bread, but of course more moist. it was good, but very rich. i wouldn't have been able to eat the whole serving. it's a great dish, but just depends on what you want.

      2. My highlights
        Lambs Tongue
        Beef Cheek - I think this dish is awesome unlike dkstar1
        Veal Chop
        Their tarts are great but dont forget to get olive oil gelatto for dessert.

        6 Replies
        1. re: tpigeon

          Isn't it the same olive oil gelato at Otto?

            1. re: tpigeon

              Ah, see, I eat at Otto regularly enough that it doesn't make sense to get the olive oil gelato at Babbo; I'd much rather have something that isn't so easily available.

          1. re: tpigeon

            All of the options are great and I totally agree.

            If you are a pork lover, I would say get the pork. It is by far the best I've ever had. Even if you currently aren't in love with pork, get it and it will make you love it.

            An interesting culinary paradox: Hand-and-hand though, if you are a pork lover, think twice about getting it just because every restaurant I ever go to now I try to compare to Babbo and it NEVER matches up. (except the dish I just had at Lever House.)

            1. re: doona

              If you are referring to their excellent pork chop, you might want to try little owls too.

              1. re: tpigeon

                I did love Little Owl - but it was a little too overdone when I got it and a little too salted.

          2. I've done the tasting menu and a la carte, and I'd definitely go with the latter (especially if you and your friends are willing to share!)

            My favorites:

            Lamb's Tongue Vinaigrette
            Lamb's Brain Francobolli
            Goose Liver Ravioli
            Pumpkin Lune
            Beef Cheek Ravioli

            I haven't cared for the Mint Love Letters either of the times I've tried them ...

            12 Replies
            1. re: Kanger

              I'll be going with 2 other people. What do you recommend ordering for 3 people? I was thinking an app, 2 pastas, and 2 entrees. Does that sound about right? would 3 entrees be preferable? Or maybe someone should have a 3rd pasta as their entree?

              1. re: Produce Addict

                I'm always least impressed with their mains, so if you want to hit what they do best, I'd do 2 apps (I like the lamb's tongue and the octopus, and the salumis are always great), 3 pastas, and a dessert or two.

                1. re: ABT

                  I was planning on doing two apps, three pastas, splitting a main, and share a dessert for a party of two. Is that going to be way too much food? (I'm going in a few weeks for my birthday and it's going to be my first time there.)

                  Then again, leftover Babbo for lunch sounds nice...

                  1. re: kathryn

                    With two people we usually get one app, two pastas, and a dessert, and we're stuffed. I do wonder if the reason I'm not as much a fan of the mains is because after an app and a pasta, we're always so full that another plate of food isn't even appealing - especially since we usually want to save room for a dessert. The pasta servings are quite filling. If starving, produce addict could add on a third app to my suggestions above, which I think would be more than enough.

                    As for your plan, I think that's way too much, and I'm a big eater, but I'm sure people have done it!

                    1. re: ABT

                      Hmmm. I suppose I'll have to pare it down, or risk getting sick. But it all looks so good!

                      1. re: kathryn

                        We ended up doing two antipasti, two primi, and one main, and then split a dessert. Looking back, a 3rd pasta would have been too heavy. We were filled but not rolling over stuffed. If we'd been more hungry, I might have added one another, smaller antipasti but very little about Babbo is small!

                        Everything we had went from good to phenomenal.

                        The warm lamb's tongue vinaigrette was a revelation -- tender meat, nice acidic bite at the end (a Batali signature meaty-sweet-sour combo, I suppose). Loved the grilled octopus, tender and fleshy, but crisp and roasted, and with perfect white beans. Expertly cooked. What char! I'll never stand for rubbery octopus again! Even my boyfriend, who usually doesn't like octopus, loved it. Great pastas, too. We had the famous mint love letters (good but not great) as well as the goose liver ravioli -- knock your socks off good. A fabulous basalmic and butter reduction, paired perfectly with umami-filled pasta, cooked perfectly al dente, and a little chewy, but nicely starchy. Our main was the sweetbreads, which we split. Very good but not as good as the primi and antipasti. I only wish I'd had more stomach space, alas! Had a very good warm apple crostata for dessert -- I'm not sure what a crostata is but I thought it was a cross between a pie and custardy-tart? The portion sizes are indeed very large. Adorable petit fours at the end, including peppermint bark pieces. Yum!

                        Busy, crowded (my god, the coat check), loud atmosphere, so not really romantic, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Loud jazz most of the time while we were there, then it switched to loud rock music. We were seated upstairs, BTW. I loved Babbo and will definitely be back. Despite its flaws, the food was great (especially at that price point).

                        1. re: kathryn

                          Hi kathryn,

                          Glad to hear you liked Babbo! It is certainly one of my favorite Italian restauarants in town. Since you mentioned that you are planning to go back, I will highly recommend the gnocchi there! It is light and pillowy and perfectly cooked. IMO Babbo, along with Del Posto, have the best gnocchi I have tried. Once you try it you will understand why I was underwhelmed by the gnocchi at the Modern Bar or EMP (well, i know it's not fair to compare gnocchi at an Italian restaurants with French, yet....)

                          Other dishes that I will recommend (and not listed in your post) are the culatello / testa, pappardelle, and lamb (entree). My dessert recommendation is a little odd (as not everyone likes this) but I adore the sweet corn crema which is kind of like a corn custard (and i am biased as I am a corn fanatic). It comes with 3 little fried "croquettes" which are always a delight!

                          Definitely request upstairs when you reserve the table as I found it to be much better for conversation (no loud music) and the service to be more attentive.

                          1. re: kobetobiko

                            I definitely have the gnocchi on my list of items to try, alongside the beef cheek ravioli, and the tripe. I did see the other tables enjoying their lamb entrees very much, however, the portion seemed gigantic.

                            I actually found service to be a little...lacking. Not super friendly, but not really bad, just kind of scarce. Our waiter would flit around the room not really making eye contact with his parties.

                            1. re: kathryn

                              So we did go back and ordered, with a few friends, with lots of food to share:

                              I ordered Armandino's salumi which was excellent, really well done, meaty and fatty, but a small portion, which was a good thing because I wanted to save room. My fiance went for the tripe, which was amazingly tasty and spicy, with great sauce, and bread. Would definitely get this again. It's a very messy dish but fun to share. My friend had the crispy pig's foot was out of this world delicious, crispy, and fatty. I had a small bite from my friend's plate. He was guarding it jealously.

                              For pastas, I had the gnocchi...I liked this a lot but the oxtail ragu was too heavy for me. I thought it might have been a little over sauced which surprised me. I was expecting to like this more. I'm not sure why it didn't impress me. Maybe I'm not a gnocchi traditionalist. Also had the mint love letters, on my 2nd try of this dish, was pretty good but not as great as some of the other dishes, I guess I'm just not a fan of red sauce dishes overall. A friend ordered the chianti stained parpadelle which was very nice but a large portion, I tried a little of my friend's dish, I think it's an acquired taste. But it was cooked perfectly. And we all swooned again over the goose liver ravioli, which, IMO, is a perfect dish. Really wonderful. I stand by my previous love over this dish.

                              For mains, my fiance and I split a special: braised pork cheeks. If you've ever been to Momofuku Ssam Bar, it's kind of like eating an Italian Bo Ssam -- tender pork, falling apart, topped with lemon peel, green apples sliced like matchsticks. Really tender. One friend ordered the sweetbreads on our recommendation and the server's recommendation, and despite never having eaten them before, loved them. Our other friend had skirt steak, which was fine, but he ordered it rare, and it came medium, alas.

                              Dessert was an assortment of gelati (espresso was basically perfect, very high quality beans of course), a pineapple crostata, and chocolate hazelnut cake. The gelati was the star dish, with out of this world, intense, beautiful flavors. We wanted to like the tiny bowls clean.

                              I would definitely go back and order the tripe and the crispy pig's foot again, and the gelati assortment, which were new to me on this visit. Delicious! Oh, and both the sommelier and the waiter were excellent in helping us make our selections.

                      2. re: ABT

                        Many Italian restaurants in New York will serve half portions of most primi for half price if you are having a secondo. Will Babbo do that if you ask?

                          1. re: Pan

                            You can easily share 2 pastas among 4 people as an appetizer. I do not think Babbo will charge half price though for half portions.

                2. Excellent advice. We have res there is two weeks (first timers from W. Coast) and were considering the tasting menus. My hesitation was that it seemed to have too many desserts and we're not much for those. Sounds like apps and pastas are more highly thought of than the mains. I haven't looked at their online menu in a few weeks but it seems more spring oriented. Does anyone know if it's supposed to be current or does it change very often. Great board. Thanks to everyone