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Aug 7, 2008 02:40 PM

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.

    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).

        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.

            110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011