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Babbo- first timer's review

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After years of reading about Babbo- how to get a reservation, how to order, where to sit, etc.- my husband and I finally went last Friday. I had put it off for a number of reasons, namely cost (that’s a pricey meal for us) and fear that, after all of that research, my expectations would trump the experience. I had heard enough negative things that I hesitated to choose it for a special occasion; I had tried once for most of a morning to get a reservation without any luck, which was frankly a huge turn-off; and, I kind of feared being surrounded by “foodie” tourists and celebrity chef groupies. So, I decided that it would be a very casual thing, which by definition means no 1-month-to-the-day planning ahead and thus no reservation, and we showed up there at five.

It felt good from our arrival. It was upscale without being pretentious, and service was really gracious from the moment we walked through the door. We put in our name and enjoyed some wine and snacks at the bar, then the host informed us that he just had a cancelled reservation and that we could have a table in the dining room vs. a walk-in table by the bar. Bonus.

The chickpea bruschetta was a lovely start. And, despite warnings about filling up on bread, we both really liked it and ate (probably) too much.

The sommelier was pleasant and recommended a very good bottle at a very low price point. I believe it was Montepulciano, right around $30, and very tasty.

Our waiter was really patient and explained everything really well. He seemed to really love the food, and his descriptions honestly made me want to try everything.

We started with the lambs tongue vinegarette appetizer. As a recovering vegetarian, I was a bit apprehensive of this, but it was really great. It was surprisingly light, everything tasted incredibly fresh and balanced, and from a visual standpoint, it was hard to see where the mushrooms stopped and the tongue began. Great start.

Then we had the mint love letters. The mint is definitely strong, but I felt like this dish showed what the restaurant was about- unapologetically bold flavors. Strange analogy, but it almost reminded me of Sripraphai in the level of seasoning. It’s not a delicate or subtle dish, and it’s not supposed to be. I was a happy girl.

Next came the beef cheek ravioli. This was as beefy as the mint love letters were minty. Again, strong flavors, and with a perfectly paired cheese grated on top.

Then, we moved on to the goose liver ravioli. This dish had more extreme flavors, in that it was in a very strong balsamic sauce. The balsamic flavor was at times a bit overboard, but it also worked incredibly well when it was balanced with the fresh herbs and cheese. It definitely straddled the line between perfect and too much. At moments, it was my favorite pasta.

We ordered one of the special entrees. I don’t recall the name of it, but in its most basic form, it was basically akin to a grilled bacon-wrapped sausage served with a great, briny eggplant, caper, olive sauce. The dish was almost comical in its “pork parts mixed with pork parts then rolled in pork parts” presentation, again flirting with excess, but it was delicious.

One major observation is that, although the menu sounded a bit intimidating and somewhat offal-centered, the food was very approachable.

At this point, we could hardly move so we skipped dessert. All in all, it was great. The service was wonderful, and the space was lovely but comfortable. Not a cheap meal, but definitely a memorable one.

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  1. I loved reading this! We've only been once (live in NoCal) and that was for my husband's birthday 12/07. Though we didn't eat all the things you did, I feel exactly the same. Loved that little bruschetta, the warm service, the help ordering a wine that didn't break the bank and everything we ate was just right. I've described it to others as we had high expectations and they were exceeded. Our tab before tip was $150 which isn't a cheap meal for us. But we started with two glasses of prosecco and had a bottle of wine with our meal. I think we definitely got our money's worth. We'll be back in NYC this summer and maybe we'll try just walking in also. Thanks for taking the time to post this.

    1. I am blown away that a recovering vegetarian would try so many different animals and cuts. Good for you. Great place to break out of the Vegetarian prison.