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Babbo versus Scarpetta?

Let the battle begin, Batali or Conant? If you have been to both, please weigh the pro's and con's. I do know that Scarpetta is still new and doesn't quite have that 'following' that maybe a devout Batali patron might feel, but I think the food at both places takes the customer to a new level of Italian cuisine that cannot be found anywhere else. Overall dining experience should be evaluated (food, atmosphere, wine list, pricing, ability to score a table, etc.)

I'm just interested to hear feedback, thanks.

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  1. hmmm.

    gotta start at the bar. they're not that different. both are comfortable and know their way around italian wines. the chips at scarpetta are addictive.

    main dining rooms don't directly compete but some parallels can be drawn. both shops spread their tables along the walls. scarpetta has an opening skylight. babbo has a second floor. both shops feature eclectic music. was that a sitar i heard at scarpetta tuesday evening? yup.

    scarpetta's polenta is superb. the tiny plate of sliced short rib is a mandatory accompaniment. babbo's pig foot milanese, warm lamb's tongue and salumi are up to the challenge.

    scarpetta has agnolotti dal plin and spaghetti al pomodoro. babbo has beef cheek ravioli, bucatini al' amatriciana, mint love letters, goose liver ravioli and pumpkin lune.

    scarpetta has italian, spanish and french wines. babbo has one of the best italian wine lists in manhattan.

    bread at scarpetta comes with garnish of choice: olive oil, tapinade, mascarpone. babbo has free range bread without the option of garnish.

    service at babbo is knowledgeable. they know food and wine. service at scarpetta is very good. let the record show that staff at scarpetta has a lot less to memorize compared to babbo.

    at the end of the day, the babbo/scarpetta comparison is a tad unfair. both are worthy destinations. food options at babbo clearly eclispe the more modest menu at scarpetta. still, scarpetta can, and should, hold its head up high. after all, you can get a reservation there without too much effort (opentable!) and the espresso kicks babbo in the butt.

    i like both.

    1 Reply
    1. re: steve h.

      Great rundown by Steve H and I agree on the comments. I generally think the dishes at Babbo are more wow-worthy both in creativity and in basic execution but they've had a lot more time to get it right. I think Scarpetta needs to tighten up its entrees. We had a forgettable white fish dish in February that needed some help though that spaghetti al pomodoro was momentous as was the burrata with marinated eggplant.
      Service is very strong at both though at Babbo the sommelier knew our order in advance before even talking to us and made recommendations on the fly. It all seemed better synchronized.

      I think Scarpetta may prove a challenge to Babbo's throne in the future, but they're not there yet.

      http://www.StrumErika.com

    2. Boy, I really like both places but I would vote easily for Babbo. The food is still all around better, better service, better wine list and more interesting dishes. Granted, Babbo has been around for years but we still think its one of the top Italian spots in the NYC. If you want more of a scene, certainly Scarpetta has it. Also, Babbo is still one of the few restaurants which, even after so many years, is essentially completely booked 30 days in advance. And, I too thought the polenta at Scarpetta was just superb.

      1 Reply
      1. re: comiendosiempre

        yup - Booking a table for the Weekends or even thursday at a decent time (pre-10pm) at Babbo these days requires going there in-person on Wed at around 10am - i'm sure if you have an assistant or somebody to purge their single phone line there are other ways, but thats the only fairsafe means.

        and it's worth it. Batali is a boss (find him cruising on the vespa and the orange crocs any day in the city).

        -----
        Babbo
        110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

      2. Personally, I'm a much much bigger fan of Scarpetta than Babbo. but I'm one of the few. Also, I'm in my late 20s and I like the atmosphere of Scarpetta as it is younger whereas Babbo is a little more mature. Plus I find the Babbo staff absolutely unpleasant compared to Scarpetta.

        Pasta wise, the food at Babbo was good but didn't wow me. (Even the beef cheek ravioli) but the tomato basil spaghetti at Scarpetta...i was just speechless when i had it

        4 Replies
        1. re: kelea

          Hello - I'm having dinner there for the first time this weekend, we're going to be four eaters with medium-size appetites. Based on the reviews I've seen, we're thinking about getting the Fritto Misto, Polenta, Short Ribs, Tuna Susci, Ravioli, and Spaghetti Tomato Basil. But I'm lost as to whether we need any additional pasta courses and entrees, and if so, what do you recommend from the standards or new items? If I should eliminate any of the aformentioned dishes, please let me know. Thanks!

          1. re: nycguy

            you must get the duck and foie gras ravioli!

            1. re: mjm1218

              I agree. It was both my husband's and my favorite dish there.

              1. re: uwsister

                Thank you for the recommendations. We ended up ordering the Tuna Susci, Polenta, and Short Ribs to Start. And then for our entrees, we split the Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil, Duck and Foie Gras Ravioli, and the Black Cod. Everything was really great. And that foccacio with prosciutto and mozzarella in the bread basket was outstanding. Thank you again, I really appreciate the advice and it made for a memorable meal.

        2. If you're looking for a "battle" between Italian chefs in NYC, you can't exclude Michael White (Alto, Convivio, Marea). Honestly, I think his restaurants are the strongest. Alto has been on the rise for a while now but for some reason remains quite under the radar; it may be the absolute best Italian restaurant in NYC at the moment, beating out Babbo and Del Posto.

          1 Reply
          1. re: hcbk0702

            Agree about Michael White's restaurants. I love Scarpetta and Babbo but Marea is now my preferred 'special occasion' destination.

          2. Both are good restaurants but this has to go to Babbo. Mario Batali's cooking has a depth to it and a real authenticity. And for anyone that has known his food pre-Scarpetta, Conant appears to be a one trick pony. Half the menu are the same dishes he did 7-8 years ago at L'Impero?!? But because he's relatively new downtown, everyone thinks it's new and exciting. I think if he keeps on learning and improving maybe he'll get as good as Babbo. But from a guy I know who used to work with him at Alto, I hear he's more about being a celebrity chef than a real cook. Time will tell.

            -----
            Babbo
            110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

            1. The service at Babbo is offensively bad. I have returned to the restaurant repeatedly hoping that service would improve. I can longer justify spending $$$ at a restaurant where they treat customers so rudely.

              -----
              Babbo
              110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

              9 Replies
              1. re: StephInNYC

                agreed...bad service and obnoxious hosts are a Batali trademark...you'll find them at all his restaurants

                1. re: Simon

                  Service at Lupa, Babbo, Esca, Osteria Mozza has been professional at all levels over the course of many visits. Otto? my wife had issues once.

                  Never experienced "offensively bad" service, even at Otto. "Obnoxious hosts?" No, haven't had a whiff of that either although some on this board have complained about problems at Babbo.

                  -----
                  Lupa
                  170 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012

                  Babbo
                  110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                  Esca
                  402 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036

                  1. re: steve h.

                    Had the most obnoxious hosts of any restaurant i can remember in the entire world at Lupa...very annoying and attitude-throwing servers and hosts at Babbo, Esca, Otto, and Casa Mono...never been to Mozza or Del Posto...

                    Service and hosting at Scarpetta, on the other hand, has been stellar at every one of at least a dozen visits over the last 18 months...

                    -----
                    Babbo
                    110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                    Del Posto
                    85 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10011

                    Esca
                    402 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036

                    Scarpetta
                    355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                    1. re: Simon

                      I forgot about Casa Mono, great spot after a Yankee day game. Bar Jamon, the tiny joint next door, is pretty cool, too.

                      I get pretty good service at all of these places. What did the Batali empire do to deserve your enmity?

                      -----
                      Casa Mono
                      52 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003

                      Bar Jamon
                      125 E 17th St, New York, NY 10003

                      1. re: steve h.

                        hey steve...i don't *want* to hate the empire...it's just that his places have been so consistently awful when i've been (and i've been many times, giving them many 2nd, 3rd, 10th chances)...and have ruined many an evening...the absolute worst was a time at Lupa about 3 years ago when my gf's parents were visiting from Japan and the hostess was so incredibly obnoxious to us/them...

                        food-wise, i'm not crazy about them either...the food is usually oversalted in the extreme (and i love salt), and follows a formula (something fatty, splash of citrus, something crunchy)...add in the attitude of the man himself (proudly calling his customers "lemmings") and it equals a boycott...

                        Too bad, as there are a couple dishes i've really liked (brussels sprouts at Lupa, pancetta-wrapped porcini at Babbo)...but not worth the hellish vibe, smug attitudes, and all the bad dishes (sent back a salad at Babbo that was like candy, had some borderline inedible things at Mono)...

                        There are so many other Italian places in NYC that i love, and i want to steer people towards them...

                        But to each their own...cheers

                        -----
                        Lupa
                        170 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012

                        Babbo
                        110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                        1. re: Simon

                          howdy simon,
                          you have to call it as you see it. i respect that.
                          --steve

                          1. re: steve h.

                            yeah, ditto...if someone loves Babbo or wherever, they should continue to go there and they should tell others to do so...i respect anyone's desire to follow their own bliss...too often people on here seem to forget to that it's an opinion forum and very subjective and don't remember to take everyone's posts, however adamant, with a grain/mine of salt :)

                            -----
                            Babbo
                            110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                      2. re: Simon

                        I've had hit or miss service at Babbo, great service at Esca, so-so service at Lupa, inattentive but otherwise OK service at Otto, and great service at Casa Mono. And great service at Pizzeria Mozza in LA. So my experience has super varied greatly between establishments.

                        I've had consistently good service at Scarpetta, both at the bar and at the table, but the hostess has always been a bit cold, both in person and on the phone.

                        -----
                        Lupa
                        170 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012

                        Babbo
                        110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                        Casa Mono
                        52 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003

                        Esca
                        402 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036

                        Scarpetta
                        355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                        1. re: kathryn

                          Agreed on the hostesses at Scarpetta. Though I think Simon is a bit much in his hate, the usual Lupa hostesses are the dumbest most useless things going. Though more recently I spoke with a very competent and kind more mature woman both in person and on the phone to take care of the arrangement. Oh, and those young dummies they always had were also not attractive so I do not understand it.
                          I have often come across eye candy that was lazy, stupid and snobby but this makes zero sense. Then again, the Scarpetta versions were nothing special, visually.
                          Always very good service or better at Babbo, would never set foot in Otto, Casa Mono was alright.

                2. Babbo has really good food. The only detractor from my point of view is the staff that works there. The three times I've gone there the staff has given me the impression that they are going me that favor of taking my $400 for the nights meals.

                  -----
                  Babbo
                  110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: soto55

                    Having eaten at both of these restaurants last week back-to-back, I feel very qualified to contribute to the comparison. It was probably my 10th time at Babbo,and my first at Scarpetta. Maybe Babbo was having an exceptionally off night, but Scarpetta was far far better in every respect (food, service, atmosphere, wine service). I can honestly say I will never return to Babbo, which makes me sad since it used to be my favorite restaurant in NYC.

                    -----
                    Babbo
                    110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                    Scarpetta
                    355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                    1. re: evets

                      Any specific recs from your dinner at Scarpetta?

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                      Scarpetta
                      355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                      1. re: evets

                        yep, and most other Batali places are even worse...oversalted touristy junk, served up w/ attitude...

                        glad you liked Scarpetta...it's my fav Italian in NY...