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Nov 23, 2008 02:00 PM

My parents love Lupa and Babbo. Where do I send them next?

Another Mario restaurant? They are casual and not trendy people but they are youthful and New Yorkers. I have never been to any of his other restaurants. Any other recommendations? I prefer downtown. Most of the "big names" they are been to or have no interest in.

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      1. re: RCC

        I researched a similar issue a while back on this board and remember hearing many positive things about Crispo in particular.

        1. re: pizzajunkie

          I've posted positively about Crispo before, but overall, they are nowhere near comparable to Lupa, let alone Babbo. My dinner at Babbo with my brother was fantastic, the best Italian meal I've had in New York. To the original poster: I really am not sure where I'd send your parents. I'm drawing a blank when trying to think of what meal I've had in New York in the last several years that was comparable to Babbo. But I've liked Hearth, except for a long wait for our first course the last time (30 minutes, for which the staff, always gracious, were apologetic and comped the course). I'm intrigued by some of the names mentioned in this thread that I haven't tried.

          1. re: Pan

            I would NOT recommend Crispo for parents. It is SO noisy that my guest was decidedly unhappy. Food was great, but the roar of noise was uncomfortable.

            1. re: maggiej

              I totally agree about the noise.

        2. re: RCC

          I liked my meal at Casa Mono (some time ago . . .probably did a post, too long ago to be helpful). Sat at bar and left smelling like food despite huge fans above the bar. Small place.

          I have also been to Lupa (some time ago) and real enjoyed my meal there. The trout with radicchio and pears was memorable. It's rare that a dish stays top of mind for years :)

          Otherwise I usually avoid the Mario hype.

          Is Crispo that affordable Italian for groups? Lively place? It's good food, large portions, nothing special. I ate there once with a group.

          Been to Po several times. Good food (Batali long gone). Tiny place. I prefer the tables (for two) in the front windows.

        3. They will probably appreciate Crispo and Pepolino, but if they want something more upscale, on the level of Babbo, send them to Convivio.

          1. you will make them happiest if you send them to a top non-Mario restaurant and then they'll understand that they've been wasting their time, patience, and dollars for years and they will have a lovely culinary revelation...

            i despise all Batali restaurants and would not enter any of them even if i was paid to do so...

            i recommend that they go to Scarpetta...superb Italian cuisine, steller friendly staff, and lovely overal vibe...if they go there, they'll soon start having pity for the tourists who line up like lemmings at Lupa...

            11 Replies
            1. re: Simon

              simon..did mario steal your olive oil as a child?? or is there something else behind this "despise" comment..thanks

              1. re: intrepid

                haha, no olive oil theft was's nothing personal, and "despise" is prob too strong word to throw around without more explanation, as i have enjoyed certain specific dishes at Babbo and Lupa in the past...

                but i think that the way his restaurants are run epitomizes a lot of what is wrong and even offensive about dining in Manhattan...the general attitude one gets from the staff at Babbo, Lupa, Esca, Spotted Pig, etc is one of "You are lucky to be dining here", as opposed to a more welcoming attitude of "We are delighted to have you dining here"...hosts/hostesses at Batali restaurants usually act as if their job is to defend the gates rather than welcome people graciously...

                my favorite restaurants (Scarpetta, Bar Bao, etc) seem to understand this rather simple concept of conviviality and charm...Bar Boulud, despite being every bit as crowded as Otto is on a Friday night, does a wonderful job...almost every nice restaurant in Seattle or Vancouver seems to pull it off effortlessly...

                The emphasis at the Batali places is on ruthless table-turning rather than customer happiness...this, and all the hype and PR, no doubt generate increased revenue and i think Batali is a great businessman...and for people who crave dishes at his places, great, enjoy...but personally i don't like to support restaurants that are run in that manner when there are so many other wonderful places in Manhattan to try...

                1. re: Simon

                  hey, ive eaten at batali places, and bastianich places, long before they were popular and trendy..ive always had good meals, and good friendly service, right up until this past friday at tarry lodge, I also dine at many other places not owned by batlai/bastianich and also have had good meals and good service. i do not share your opinion or experiience at batali/bastianich places

                  1. re: intrepid

                    i agree with intrepid: never had a bad experience at any batali restaurant, except for maybe casa mono, and i've eaten at all of them, i think. the food is consistently excellent.

                  2. re: Simon

                    I have to agree with Simon about the receptionists at the two Batali restaurants we've been to: Esca and Casa Mono. At Esca, we were seated at an extremely cramped table and our request to the host for a change was refused. At Casa Mono, the hostess attempted to seat three of us at a table that could not comfortably fit two. When I totally balked, she very grudgingly -- and with a puss that looked as though she had swallowed an ant -- had 2 two-tops put together. Better. But the fact is that tables at Casa Mono are jammed uncomfortably close to one another.

                    As far as service goes, at Esca, our waiter was not particularly friendly though he did get the job done. The two times we've been to Casa Mono (one lunch and one dinner) the servers were pleasant. The waitress who took care of us at dinner -- our first time there -- was especially helpful in figuring out how many plates to order.

                    As I've said before, my reason for avoiding Babbo is the "telephone tango" one has to go through to get a reservation. In my view, no restaurant -- no matter how fabulous the food may be -- is worth that kind of hassle. I didn't jump through any reservation hoops when we went to per se (booked with ease on OpenTable for a Sunday lunch), and I'm certainly not going to do it for Babbo.

                    1. re: Simon

                      I generally like Batali places, though his attempts at restaurant empire may show some of the strains of over-exansion. Perhaps that's a bow to Roman authenticity, acting the part of a late-empire Caesar in restaurant openings.

                      While aware of anecdotal fallacies, I had some of the most attentative service of my life at Esca, to the point it was almost awkward. The guy was almost too friendly.

                      One person who wasn't too friendly in a recent encounter was the clogged one himself. I spotted him once at the Spotted Pig and didn't say anything (though the restaurant name suddenly made sense?). But then I saw him yet again a few weeks later at Grey Dog. I return to the table with my cheese, bacon, and egg sandwich and there he is talking to my roommate. I sat down and jokingly accused him of stalking me, which he did NOT find funny at all. Maybe it's because he was there with his little bambinos, but the whole thing turned sort of awkward. This is a lesson of not making gods of men, particularly when they wear orange crocs.

                      1. re: Simon

                        I've always had good service at Lupa, even when the food was disappointing, and I also had good service the one time I was at Babbo. If anything, the service at Babbo was too SLOW. My one time at Spotted Pig was not a happy experience, as the restaurant was overly crowded and cramped and the food I had was nothing memorable yet rather expensive, but I've found the staff at Lupa and Babbo from the hostesses to the waitstaff to the coat-check to be gracious and friendly. I've been to Casa Mono once and have nothing to complain about; it's not the fault of the waitstaff that the place is cramped, and I didn't think the food was a good value. I've never been to the other restaurants associated with Mario Batali, so you may have had more experiences at his restaurants than I have, for whatever that's worth.

                        1. re: Pan

                          I've always had good service at Casa Mono (and love the food there), but have had some odd telephone conversations with the hostess. At Lupa I've also had good service, often lingering, and have only had positive experiences with the hostesses. Spotted Pig - always gracious service.

                          1. re: Pan

                            I agree that the cramped tables are not the fault of the wait staff. However, the hostess was definitely to blame for thinking it was perfectly o.k. to seat a party of three at a tiny table that could barely accommodate two!

                            1. re: RGR

                              Yeah. And now that you mention it, I seem to recall that they tried to seat my party of 5 at a 4-top, and we refused, so they seated us at a larger table.

                          2. re: Simon

                            I agree about the service at Babbo, but not about Manhattan generally, certainly not at some other high end places. Danny Meyer restaurants are just the opposite, in fact. I have had good service at Maialino despite dining alone (which can't be the waiter's favorite). In fact, I think Babbo is more the exception than the rule. (Although I haven't been to Lupa, Esca or Spotted Pig).

                      2. Try Peasant. I also love Lupa and Babbo, but for something a little different that isn't in the Batali empire, Peasant is a fantastic choice.