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Babbo -- Twice in One Week Not Enough! (LONG REPORT)

I posted earlier this month asking if the ever insightful people on this board thought going to Babbo two times in one week was too much. We decided to see how much we enjoyed it the first night and, if we loved it, keep our second reservation.

We loved Babbo! The first night, our reservation for two was at 6:00 p.m. Upon arrival, we walked up to the host stand after passing the bar area. The bar area was already filled to capacity with bar diners and people dining at the bar area tables. I agree with others on this board that I would feel very comfortable eating at the bar and at the three tables in the front window in the bar area, but I would not like sitting at the two tables between the door and the host station. It was seemed very crowded and distracting,

Upon checking in, we were immediately seated. [Interestingly, for all of you who would love to dine at Babbo but have missed making reservations 30 days in advance, I overheard the host telling another staff person that they still had seating available in the dining room, so they should not turn anyone away or say they were fully booked. ]

'We were right next to the huge round table in the center where the wine is kept and where the sommelier was stationed. We also were seated close enough to the kitchen that we were able to see almost every delicious-looking dish that came out of the kitchen.

Our server was great. He took our pre-dinner drink order -- rhubarb bellinis (yum) -- and then explained every special to us and several house specialties in great detail. While he did this, we enjoyed the complimentary chickpea bruschetta. Of course, I had scrutinized the menu many, many times and pretty much knew what we were going to order. We told the waiter we were going to split everything and asked if he could just pair our wine with each dish and he said of course. I don't remember the names of every wine he picked (I am not that familiar with Italian wines), but each one paired perfectly with our dishes. I saw him consult with the sommelier before choosing which wine to pair with each of our dishes. I do not believe each of the wines were on the quartino list.

Oxtail gnocci -- The softest, pillows of gnocci I have ever tasted in a thick, rich almost gravy-like sauce with oxtail meat in it. I fell in love with Babbo upon my first bite. This was paired perfectly with a very light Bastianich (don't be skeptical) red. I believe it was Impezzara. It was a perfect, light red wine to start with that really showcased the gnocci.

Beef cheek ravioli -- One of the richest pasta dishes I have ever tasted. The texture was smooth and creamy. We almost inhaled it. This was nicely paired with a Mascarello Barbera D'Alba.

Sweetbreads -- I have to admit that I have never tasted sweetbreads and do not love offal. Having said that, these sweetbreads were very tasty and velvety soft. The taste was sweet and sour. Very good. This was the only controversial wine pairing that we had. The dish would normally be paired with a white wine, but, because we had it as a third course after already having two red wines, it was paired with a delicious red wine. It was my favorite wine of the evening and I wrote it down but I think I was in such a food coma by this point I didn't write it down clearly. Wine gurus, please feel free to give me your thoughts on what wine it was because I would love to order it again. I also may have been a tiny bit tipsy by this point because they were very generous with filling (and refilling) our wine glasses. I gibberish I wrote down is " Vigna da Duliena Schiollol . . ." Sorry!

Our last dish, don't gasp, was the ribeye for two. We couldn't resist. We love steak (I especially love ribeye) and have heard so many great things about this ribeye that we had to try it. And, it was the most delicious steak I have ever tasted. It was served with baby rosemary potatoes and ramps, with olive oil dripped over the top. they bring the huge 20 oz. steak out on a wooden board, show it to you, and then carve it up for two in a beautiful presentation. Then they drizzle the olive oil over the top. The flavoring of the meat and the dry rub on the steak gave it an amazing crust that sealed in the juices perfectly. This was paired with the Ocone Diomede Aglianico. Perfect pairing.

I am afraid to say that I cannot remember the exact dessert that we had. It was a crostata with pine nuts on top. Very good, but we were in a true food coma by that point and could barely comprehend any other amazing flavors.

I have seen the debate about upstairs or downstairs and we really enjoyed downstairs. We did not find it too loud, but I can see how others might. We loved the music. I thought it added a little extra flavor that you don't typically get in restaurants of this caliber.

Our second night, we had a much later reservation -- 9:00 p.m. -- but were still seated (downstairs again) immediately. This was a much more relaxed meal because the pressure was off, so to speak. We again asked our server to pair wine with each dish. We ordered a special that sounded wonderful the first night we were there -- raviolo raviggiolli. This was probably the best pasta dish I have ever had. It was ravioli with a rather strong goat cheese, raviggiolli, in a rich, cream sauce. This was paired with a white Morgex.

Our second dish was another pasta -- orecchetti with sweet sausage. This dish was fine, but pretty ordinary. The pasta was cooked perfectly and the red sauce was very nice, but it was not the same WOW type of dish that every other dish was. This was paired with a Canaiolo. I didn't love this wine, but our server told us it was made from the same grapes as chianti, so it would pair really well with the pasta. It did pair well, but had a little too much tannin for my taste.

Although we vowed to not get the ribeye and to try some of the other secondis, we could not resist because it was so great. And we wanted to confirm that it was as great as we originally thought it was. And .... it was even better the second time! Probably because we had a little bit more room for it as we didn't have three courses prior to eating it and we did not eat much of the orecchetti.

We ordered the gelato and sorbet sampler for dessert. We really enjoyed the olive oil gelato.

In short, both nights at Babbo were awesome and exactly what I was hoping for.

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  1. we like babbo, too.
    good food, good wine, good prices. i like sitting at the bar now. easy in, easy out.

    1. OMG I have to go to have the ribeye. I went about a month ago with my family and had the duck which was amazing. But as a steak lover and after seeing many tables order this I was really kicking myself over not getting this. Sounds like it is really worth the hype. Did they cook it right? Seems to me places always seem to overcook steak these days.

      1. Thanks for the great report! I'm glad you had a good time. That raviolo raviggiolli sounds fantastic...and you didn't even get a chance to try out the rest of the menu!

        1. HI Adelia,

          Thanks for the review. It's always delightful to hear that the board's recommendation works out! I agree with kathryn that there are a lot more to try out in the menu! Like the lamb tongue salad, the crispy pig foot, the salumi, and so much more.

          I am recently hooked on steaks (though trying to take a break before another "steak-streak"). Now I have the ribeye for two on my list!

          1 Reply
          1. re: kobetobiko

            I literally cannot wait to go back and order more of the dishes that have been recommended.

          2. Quick question... 20 oz total for PP? Because 20 oz total is nothing. I have seen it and it is huge so I assume you mean 20 oz total.

            2 Replies
            1. re: steakrules85

              You have to get this ribeye! It was cooked perfectly. Our server said 20 oz, but it was HUGE. I agree it had to be 20 oz per person. It was amazing! I don't think I will ever be able to order any other secondi there!

              1. re: Adelia

                I am actually going to Del Posto this week and they HAD it in there menu there as well. I was all set to get it as I figure it has to be the same as Babbo's (being a Batali restaurant also). However, much to my dismay they took it off for the summer! Now they have a beef tenderloin for two which I will have to settle for. I hope they do that just as well but as a pure steak fan I really prefer my steaks on the bone you know.

                Anyone try to beef tenderloin for two at DP yet? Would be appreciated.

            2. Thanks so much, Adelia, for this fantastic report. It sounds like you had a great time, and really enjoyed Babbo. What more can you ask for, right?
              So, in the end, were you happy with your decision re: the wines?

              1 Reply
              1. re: vvvindaloo

                We were really happy we asked them to pair the wines for us. They paired everything really well and we were able to taste several great wines. I highly recommend it.

              2. Thanks Adelia for this wonderful report. I just booked a reservation at Babbo yesterday for a month later (ofcourse!) and I am looking forward to my visit there. Previously I have had tasting menu with wine pairings at Babbo and that is what I was planning to go for in this upcoming visit, but your review is tempting me other direction........... I like the fact that they take the effort to pair their wines with a la carte menu also, so you have just left me confused! Good thing is I have a month to decide.

                1 Reply
                1. re: cpw

                  wines by the glass are really good. babbo is really good in this respect.

                2. hi adelia,
                  i want to take my sig other there for our anniv..but could you give me an idea of what the bill came to for the 4 dishes + wine pairings? (i want to have some idea what im in for!!)
                  thanks, and ive been looking forward to babbo forever...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: lemonyc

                    Total cost was around $250. We went for our anniversary as well and, as I said above, it lived up to and exceeded our expectations, which were very high.

                  2. Brand new to chowhound..but I don't get the hype with Babbo! After all of the positive comments and all the people telling me it's the ONE restaurant I HAVE TO GO TO...My husband and I walked out totally perplexed and extremely disappointed. First, we found the service to be less than stellar. We told the waiter it was our first time at Babbo, and he didn't help us with picks. The tables (on the main floor) were tight. The staff were annoyingly attentive. Now for the food. We ordered the octopus appetizer. was good. We also ordered the ravioli appetizer which we didn't like. It had some liver paste or something. They gave us good dry bread. No butter or oil, just dry. Even in Italy we got oil. My husband got the rib eye and I ordered the pasta with lobster as my main course. The steak was great but the potatoes were not special. The pasta was very disappointing. It was dry and very spicy. The taste was nothing special either. Nothing made me love this place. Nothing blew me away at all.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: novicenyc

                      I'd had middling service at Babbo -- sometimes great, sometimes perfunctory. The second floor is definitely the place to sit if you want more space. The first floor is tight but not necessarily any worse than other popular places in town.

                      Bread service is similar to that of other Italian restaurants. I think the whole dipping it in olive oil thing is more popular in the US. I'm sorry you weren't pleased with the food -- on a menu that big, there's bound to be clunkers -- but I don't think you ordered the best of what they have to offer.

                      1. re: novicenyc

                        When I went to Babbo the waiter was very gracious in explaining everything on the menu. I am surprised to hear yours was very different. Also you must sit upstairs if you do not want to be cramped. As far as bread just request to have some oil and they will glady get it for you as we did.