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Feb 16, 2009 12:27 PM

Lupa vs. Babbo?? Help!

I'm taking a date out for birthday dinner and need a good Italian restaurant with excellent food and a well-thought out wine list that won't break the bank. I'm thinking Lupa but do you think it's romantic enough? Unless I get a seat in the back room, it may be a little too casual. Babbo is definitely on my radar but the menu has very few options for fish lovers like me. Input please!

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  1. Never been to Lupa but Babbo is awesome. Go there. Now.

    1. i'd recommend skipping the Batali joints entirely and going to Scarpetta...for your fish crazings, their black cod w/ stewed tomatoes is great, as is the yellowtail curdo...very well-chosen wine-list...request a cozy table...and it'll be much more romantic than either of the places you mentioned (how romantic can it be at Babbo when they're blasting Squeeze/REM all night and 2/3rds of the tables are tourists?)...

      the cost will be about the same as Babbo...

      4 Replies
      1. re: Simon

        Thanks. No luck with getting res at Scarpetta. Have you tried Sfoglia?

        1. re: upperny

          i've never been to Sfoglia...

          my other favorite Italian places (besides Scarpetta) are cute and cozy, but much more casual: Cacio e Vino (East Village) and Malatesta (Far West Village)...either could work for casually romantic dinner, but may not be special enough for the bday dinner you are planning...but you could keep them in mind as backup options and/or for future dinners...Malatesta has good lamb chops (but not much in the way of seafood besides a grilled calamari salad) and Cacio e Vino has Sicilian specialties, wood-oven pizzas, etc...

          1. re: upperny

            I've walked in to Scarpetta twice now and have been seated (2 for dinner) within 15 minutes.

            1. re: upperny

              Sfoglia is lovely, and has recently expanded, though I've not eaten in the new area. It looks v. romantic.

          2. Neither Lupa or Babbo strike me as very romantic... note that both book up WELL in advance. Babbo books up about 30 days in advance, Lupa is pretty much the same. They both have excellent food but are definitely casual, loud, bustling. Not really date type places. Also, if you are a fish lover, you might not find a lot to love on the menus.

            5 Replies
            1. re: kathryn

              Kathryn, my date loves meat so I'd like to go somewhere carnivore-friendly with a couple of decent fish dishes. Where would you suggest. Btw, can't get a res at Scarpetta before 10pm.

              1. re: upperny

                why don't you go to a less in spot and try cannonau (formerly assenzio) on east 4th between A and B? lots of meat but as a pescatarian - there is a nice branzino with artichokes and plenty of non meat options. very cozy in winter, a full bar and i bet you can get in.

                1. re: upperny

                  I think Convivio would be a great choice. It's not exactly "romantic" but probably more so than Babbo or Lupa. The menu is fairly extensive, with many meat and fish choices. They do wonderful things with organ meats like tongue, tripe and duck hearts. The 4-course prix-fixe at $59 is a very good deal.

                  1. re: upperny

                    I've never been but Peasant if supposed to be terrific and maybe fit the bill.

                    1. re: steakrules85

                      Peasant is a good call steakrules...although if they still do that schtick with the menu only in italian and then the waiter says everything in english, it's a bit irritating. But the food is good and it's got a good date vibe.

                2. Scalini Fedeli -- very romantic. soft-egg yolk ravioli is phenomenal
                  Da Umberto - Chelsea.. solid italian, not on level of Babbo though
                  Il Trulli - on 27th, not too expensive
                  Ballatos - 55 East Houston.. great traditional italian.. low key.. romantic but not uber romantic

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: shanshan

                    Ballato used to be my cousin's go-to local Italian place when she lived near there, and I never thought it was better than mediocre. That was a bunch of years ago, though.

                    1. re: Pan

                      its a simple restaurant. That said I think the bufala mozzarella, sphagetti w/ meatballs, and cannoli as as good as anywhere in NY... you won't find grilled octopus or a seasonal menu, but the food they serve is very good (I think so).

                      1. re: shanshan

                        I wasn't commenting on what isn't on the menu, but how I found what they DID cook.

                          1. re: shanshan

                            You expect me to remember what I ordered over 10 years ago that was mediocre? I remember having some pasta. I really don't remember what else I had in a bunch of undistinguished meals there.

                            1. re: Pan

                              Not sure why I'm sensing hostility in your messages... but in any case, no, I would not expect you to remember a meal you had there over 10 years ago. For what its worth I know the restaurant has changed hands 3 times.. original owner.. and then Sal Anthony.. and then Emilio (hence Emilio's Ballato is name of place) took it over maybe 15 years ago. perhaps you were there when Sal Anthony ran the place (which I assume was at the level of his current chain).. just throwing it out there..

                              1. re: shanshan

                                I'm not sure why you're sensing hostility, either. But note that my original caveat was "that was a bunch of years ago, though." A change of ownership or chef can completely change the quality of a restaurant. So indeed, maybe it's gotten much better.

                  2. What about Apizz? It's definitely romantic (probably the most romantic among all the ones suggested), and there are plenty of choices for your gf and yourself. While the food may not be as top-notched as Babbo, I find the food to be quite fine and enjoyable.