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Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca -- June 2009 report

I feel liberated -- I'm officially done with Babbo. My report of my last meal there is below, and the pictures are here: http://www.alifewortheating.com/nyc/b...

This wasn’t my first visit to Babbo. It was, without a doubt, my last.

But I don’t blame the cooks. Tough tentacles of grilled octopus are not the end of the world. A dry rabbit loin was the least of our worries.

I can’t fault the staff, either. Our waiter was a perfectly nice fellow, present but not overbearing. Marla Priest, the sommelier, glowed with a perpetual smile. And nearly everyone else we encountered that evening was friendly. My only service gripe was with the sottovoce dish descriptions we received as runners dropped off our plates and fled the scene. But worse crimes have been committed.

This was my last visit because of John Mainieri, the bald-headed Minos of maître d’s. I felt his tail slither around us soon as we approached the podium. “The tasting menu is not an option, and we need the table back by 8:00″ was his judgment. Hitting traffic on the Long Island Expressway was our sin. Of course, I had called to apologize and inform the restaurant of our late arrival. But when a female voice promised a transfer to Mr. Mainieri, I was instead serenaded by Luciano Pavarotti for ten eternal minutes before I gave up. A second call went unanswered.

The truth is, Adam and I arrived forty minutes late, and that would put any maître d’ in a tough position on a busy Saturday night. But there were 1,000 more tactful ways to handle that situation. A friend of ours had arrived twenty minutes earlier and offered to sit down and order for us. In any scenario, we would’ve gladly vacated the table at 8:00 to finish the meal at the bar. And simply shuffling us to a later table would have been perfectly acceptable. But no such solution was proffered.

I couldn’t even solicit a smile from Mr. Mainieri. But maybe you’re a nicer person than I am, in which case he and his pug might accept you on Facebook. They have 156 friends.
I was slightly incredulous, but very hungry, so I didn’t put up a fight with him. In any case we sat down, and it took us all of two minutes to order.

It took nearly thirty for the appetizers to arrive. The Pig Foot “Milanese” with Rice Beans and Arugula ($15) was my favorite among them. Crisp, meaty and fatty, I only thought it a bit precious for the price. I suppose precious is not often a term often used to describe Mario Batali or his food, but there you go.

A dish of Warm Tripe “alla Parmigiana” ($11) smelled, well, a bit rank. The texture was pleasantly tender, though. The simple tomato sauce was bright and slightly sweet, the nutty parmigiano-reggiano a nice touch, and the grilled bread, just the accompaniment that such a dish calls for. But I’ve had tripe countless times when that particular intestinal odor has been absent. It wasn’t a deal-breaker, but it was bothersome.

A friend’s Asparagus “Milanese” with Duck Egg and Parmigiano ($15) tasted fine enough, but looked like a first-day culinary school creation. The egg was either “poached” in one of those infomercial steamers or simply cut with a ring mold, but either way it looked silly in a restaurant that — aside from the soundtrack — has at least some serious ambition.

Adam chose the Grilled Octopus with “Borlotti Marinati” and Spicy Limoncello Vinaigrette ($15). On other visits, we’d each proclaimed this the finest octopus dish in memory, but this one begged to be forgotten. It was rough, rubbery, and dressed with a sickly sweet condiment.

Pasta has always been the restaurant’s strong (and some argue only) suit, so we ordered five of them. Our friend had the Garganelli with “Funghi Trifolati” ($22), with which she was perfectly pleased. I stole just a small taste, and thought the condimento tasty but the pasta just a bit thicker than I might have preferred.

Mint Love Letters with Spicy Lamb Sausage ($20) are a Batali classic. Classic like William Faulkner, that is — required reading but not something I particularly enjoy. This dish was more about the herb than the lamb, and it somehow brought Indian mint chutney to mind. As much as I love to travel, that wasn’t a continent I was looking to explore on this particular evening.

The Sweet Potato “Lune” with Sage and Amaretti ($19), were, as always, very good. But the autumnal filling of butternut squash is, in my opinion, slightly smoother and sweeter. I would say I’ll come back for this dish in the fall, but I won’t. My loss, I suppose.

Maybe the Beef Cheek Ravioli with Crushed Squab Liver and Black Truffle ($23) were not the thing for this hot, rainy day. They’re better suited for a cold, rainy one. But regardless of the forecast, this dish was grey and drab and in dire need of some kind of acidity.

The Black Spaghetti with Rock Shrimp, Spicy Salami Calabrese and Green Chiles ($25) was mine, all mine. And I’m pretty sure it’s the biggest dish of pasta I’ve ever been served (the atrocious Carmine’s excepted). Something about the combination of pork, crustacean, and scallion was reminiscent of Chinese dumplings. And this time, I was happy flying to Asia on Alitalia. The noodles had the dark, almost murky richness of squid ink. The condiment was peppery with a slight natural sweetness. I might’ve preferred a stronger kick of chile, but that’s really splitting hairs over a dish I surely enjoyed.

Among the secondi, I again went classic Batali with the Spicy Two Minute Calamari Sicilian Lifeguard Style ($24), a dish I had not yet sampled on other visits. The mental image of Mario Batali as a lifeguard is not a pretty one, but with this recipe he might at least pass for Sicilian. Redolent of that island, this stew was a stage for tomato, caper and olive alike. The calamari were bouncy but not rubbery, firm but not chewy. And when the menu said spicy, it meant it. It was a pleasing and persistent prickle that made this a dish I just wanted to keep eating.

Adam’s Rabbit with Peas, Babbo Pancetta and Carrot Vinaigrette ($28) likewise made a quick impression. The loin was disastrously dry, and after half a bite, his face told me he’d given up. He’s never been one to send back a dish, but I’ve never been one to let someone continue eating something they’re clearly not enjoying, so I prodded him to say something. The waiter handled this gracefully, asking what exactly he did not like about it, and offering a replacement.

Despite a slightly overcooked interior [EXCERPT REMOVED BY ORIGINAL POSTER], Adam was more pleased with the Fennel Dusted Sweetbreads with Sweet and Sour Onions, Duck Bacon and Membrillo Vinegar ($27). Or at least he would have been, had he been given the time to enjoy it.

But indeed, here the story of our evening gets better. Adam was working on the sweetbreads when who should arrive but another friend planning to join us just for dessert. We were seated at a four-top, mind you, with plenty of room for a fourth chair. Yet our friend, and thus our group, encountered two problems. First, Mr. Mainieri refused to direct her to our table, even after she had explained that she was only joining us for dessert. And second, she was refused a chair and forced to stand awkwardly by the table once she’d had been grudgingly pointed to it. Worse yet, a bus boy kindly went to get her a chair only to have one of Mainieri’s minions, who had been hovering silently near our table throughout the meal, come to snatch it back.

I was speechless, and Adam was furious. Preferring not to see the poor girl embarrassed, he dropped his credit card on the table and the two of them left.

This would normally be time for some of Gina DePalma’s wonderful desserts. But the Chair Nazi approached the table again: “I understand you had a prior arrangement with the maître d…” There was no time to even look at the dessert menu, he said, much less order anything. It was 7:50pm. And pitiful petit fours were our pittance.

Mario Batali has a claque that spans the globe, and I once might have even claimed a vocal spot among its members. But this evening’s incident was far from the first service issue I’ve encountered at one of his and partner Joe Bastianich’s establishments, and I’d rather not even get into those right now. So I’ve decided I’m done.

I’m done talking to managers, writing letters, and making phone calls. I’m done being squeezed into one of three nightly seatings so Batali & Co. can pad their wallets most efficiently. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me this many times… and I just don’t like you.

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  1. Amen and bravo to you! If that fool only knew you what an eloquent FOOD writer you were. I must say, though, Babbo is not the type of place I'd invite a friend to join our table "just for dessert." However, if this was done in a passive-aggressive manner to piss off the maitre, then fine.
    You're a fantastic writer and I'm glad to see you on this site.

    www.thelunchbelle.com

    3 Replies
    1. re: LeahBaila

      Thanks, lunchbelle. Inviting our friend to join us for dessert was hardly a passive-aggressive act to annoy the maitre d. She simply got out of work late that evening, and we all planned to go out afterwards, so her sitting down with us for a few minutes and us treating her to dessert seemed the best way for us to all link up. Sorry to hear that so many people find that unreasonable.

      1. re: tupac17616

        I don't think it's unreasonable, except for the fact that it seems like said friend arrived no earlier than 7:45 - and you'd agreed to leave by 8:00. Is 15 minutes enough time to order dessert, receive it, consume it, and then ask for and pay the check?

        I think you were treated badly by the maitre d, but in his position I probably would have sadly and sympathetically told you - when you finally arrived - that Babbo could not accommodate you. And then offered you another reservation for another day.

        1. re: tupac17616

          Like someone mentioned below, that would be completely fine in at a diner, but definitely NOT somewhere like Babbo...Especially considering how you were treated upon arrival.
          Not the end of the world; next time this situation arises, I'm sure you'll think twice before having someone join you at the end of your meal.

          www.thelunchbelle.com

      2. I find it odd that they ousted you from your seat so promptly before 8... I've had reservations there before that I had to wait 45 minutes past to be seated -- so they don't do that to everyone! Granted, everything after we were seated was absolutely amazing, but yes, if I had any complaints about Babbo it would involve the front desk and the jumping through hoops for reservations, never the dinner service or the food. Unfortunate indeed!

        1. although this article makes me fearful, babbo's been hyped up too much for me not to try at least once. that being said, i fully enjoyed this review and will probably agree with you if i ever get around to making reservations..

          1. yay...i'm delighted that someone is joining me in my Batali boycott...the front desks at all his restaurants supply the same obnoxious attitude: not on every single visit, but definitely the majority of the time, and it's been the case in all the ones i've been to, and i've been to every one other than Del Posto...

            I slipped on my boycott recently and went to Casa Mono because it's about a block from my house: big mistake...it was deja vu of all the past annoyances...

            my personal advice: don't go to any of his restaurnants..

            1. I agree with emilie - I too had to wait 45 minutes to be seated during the one and only time we went in 2003. We had late reservations after the theater and our problem was not the maître d. Our problem was the waiter, who was extremely put out by having to serve us. My attitude is that if you don't want to be open late, don't take late reservations. He threw bread (literally threw it - it fell in her lap) at my friend, and told us he was sure we didn't want dessert any way, since they were out of practically everything. Every time I hear rapturous things about Babbo, I just laugh. I've literally had better service at Pizza Hut.

              1. And thanks for the great post, by the way! (Can you tell that the mere mention of Babbo still makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck?)

                1 Reply
                1. re: txgrl99

                  no reason to quake in one's boots...

                  as much as i personally despise the Batali restaurant-system, feel free to try it...or not...

                  as i've mentioned in the past, there are certain specific Batali dishes that i've liked and i wouldn't begrudge anyone their enjoyment of anything they like (from Sbarro's hotdog to Per Se poached egg)..

                  if you go and have a great meal, i'll be happy that you had a nice evening...but if they are at all sour and obnoxious when you arrive, you'd be perfectly in your rights to turn around and walk out and tell them to enjoy the loss of booking and to get a clue if they want to have future customers...(and then wander a few blocks away for many, imo, better Italian options elsewhere --- for example you could go to the bar at Peasant and have a great meal)...

                  Personally, i'd be delighted if every Batali restaurant went bankrupt and closed and better places sprung up in their midst...but people must find their own way to that conclusion...

                2. I've been to Babbo a few times. I like Babbo. The food is solid and its likely the most fun 3-star in the city off the top of my head. The wine list is fairly stellar. I've never been impressed with Babbo's MD. He's basically just not a great MD as I see it. In a place that high-volume you probably need the most polished and patient candidate available. Babbo notoriously attracts diners from inside and outside the city whose expectations, behaviors and experiences dining out in New York are far from homogenous and there is unfortunately no way for a single MD to adopt policies that will address all those expectations and behaviors. It's a tough job and the candidate they chose way back when doesn't seem particularly excellent.

                  As a restaurant guy, I can't help but point out that being 40 minutes late for a Saturday night reservation pretty much leaves a NYC MD with very few options. It's basically totally unacceptable. Calling doesn't much help either because the second seating is 100% booked at Babbo 365 days a year. It's strange that you were even seated arriving that late...

                  There's pretty much no way to dine as a party of 3 at Babbo in 75 minutes. Ordering three courses, one consisting of 5 pastas for 3 people, sounds like you might have simply being playing an elaborate game of chicken with your MD and wait staff. I'd wager your overcooked and less that perfect food preps were the direct result of the kitchen being given a directive to honor the out time you'd been given by the MD which is the responsible thing for him to do vis a vis the guests reserved for the second seating. The more you order, as a result, the sloppier the execution becomes when there isn't an adequate amount of time to dine.

                  Having people "join a table for dessert" is just bad manners. It's an absurd thing to attempt at one of NYC's busiest restaurants. Did you originally have a reservation for 4 and as such not honor either your res time or party size? Did you get a call from your friend who was joining you and simply neglect to inform the house your party size would change? It doesn't sound like you just happened to run into an old friend at the bar and invited them to join you, so I assume you knew you had too few seats at your table when you were seated and could have been up front with your MD rather than put him in the position of having to decide between maintaining the restaurant's seating plan and reservations system or to play the role of willing host to your party and bump someone else's reservation through no fault of their own.

                  Your food writing sounds wonderful, but the issues you encountered at Babbo are the same you'd encounter at any perennially packed, New York hot spot had you arrived late, as an incomplete party and ordered in a manner making it clear to the MD you had no intention of honoring a quoted out time.

                  Being treated as a good guest is often as simple as being a good guest.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: haacp

                    it would have been perfectly acceptable for the md to turn them away for being 40 minutes late but once they were seated, i think it's important to maintain a high level of service for all the patrons. it's like doing someone a favor and then complaining about it the whole time. it seems somewhat of a double standard that it's perfectly acceptable for a restaurant to seat a party 45 min late because they're busy but they won't make allowances for someone being late for their reservation. i do agree about the friend popping in for dessert. that shouldn't happen. it's not a cafe or diner.

                    1. re: tkm616

                      At first I agreed with you tkm, but the more I think about it, the double standard argument is a little unfair. Babbo gets hammered in reviews for making patrons wait. Then, when they try to prevent the wait, they get hammered for that, too. It's like they're damned if they do, damned if they don't.

                      1. re: a_and_w

                        i agree with you and running a restaurant is a tough biz but my main point was that people shouldn't be treated like second class citizens once they're seated.

                    2. re: haacp

                      Great post, haacp. Thanks for your comments.

                      I completely agree that arriving so late would leave any maitre d' with precious few options. I said as much in the review. I also said, as I still very much believe, that none of those options were explored. And that, to me, was the problem.

                      There is certainly no way to dine at Babbo in 75 minutes. There was no elaborate game of chicken involved in ordering. We had no strategy, honestly. We were all very, very excited to return to Babbo. And we simply ordered the dishes that most appealed to us. We understood the time crunch we were under. We also wanted to have as good of a meal as possible within those constraints.

                      Our reservation was for three people. Often such a party size is accommodated at a table that comfortably seats four people, as was the case here. We knew in advance that our friend was coming, and no, I did not alert Mr. Mainieri to that fact. After the reception we'd gotten from him, I wasn't terribly keen on speaking to the maitre d' anymore at all, honestly. I tried my best to push the initial experience out of my mind and just enjoy the meal. I wanted to love it, because in the past I've always loved my meals at this restaurant. Our friend sitting down at a table that would have easily accommodated here does not seem to me to be such a big deal. I can think of countless restaurants I've been to that would have handled that with ease. Perhaps Babbo just is not one of them, and that's fine. But that's one reason of many that explain why I'm done patronizing the restaurant.

                    3. I hva to agrre with you about these pretentious restaurant owners and/ or staff who will continue to not understand that the reason they are in business is to provide a service and not to act like serving food on any level is anything but a skilled craft and not painting the Sistine Chapel. I have worked in and owned restaurants for 30 years.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: mpatrissy

                        On the flip side, entitled customers sometimes seem to think they can do no wrong. A Saturday night reservation at Babbo is extremely scarce and valuable. By showing up so late, the OP was taking money out of the restaurant's pocket. That doesn't justify the MD's behavior, but I would be annoyed by the OP's behavior as well.

                        1. re: a_and_w

                          What about our behavior, aside from the late arrival (which, I admit, was our mistake and not a small one), would you find annoying? We were apologetic for being late. We did not put up a fight about giving up the table by 8pm. We ordered extremely quickly. And we allowed that, in the instances we had ordered more than three dishes for a course, they could be brought all at the same time, thus not prolonging the meal. We tried to work with them as best we could.

                          1. re: tupac17616

                            Besides showing up late, you tried to have your friend seated just for dessert. Though they clearly overreacted, your request was unreasonable for the reasons others have noted.

                            1. re: a_and_w

                              i think this arguement has been done to death and every point has been covered by the OP and subsequent posts. there's still never an excuse for someone in the "service" industry to give such poor service

                              1. re: tkm616

                                Excuse me? I was responding to a specific question by tupac and have repeatedly suggested the MD's behavior was unjustified.

                                1. re: a_and_w

                                  my last post wasn't directed at you. it was in general to all the arguments that are going on. what i meant to say was that all the valid points have been covered and there is no reason to continue the discussion. what we all seem to agree on, and tupac's original complaint, was that the "md's behavior was unjustified."

                      2. I'm somewhat sympathetic, but it sounds like you didn't allow sufficient travel time - traffic on the LIE on Saturday night going into Manhattan is pretty much guaranteed, no? And if you were 40 minutes late, and your friend "had arrived twenty minutes earlier," then your friend was 20 minutes late. Unless I misunderstand you, no member of your party was on time, and no one gave the restaurant a heads up about it. I think you're lucky to have gotten a table at all.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: small h

                          "traffic on the LIE on Saturday night going into Manhattan is pretty much guaranteed, no?"

                          Traffic on the LIE on ANY night going into OR OUT OF Manhattan is pretty much guaranteed. Not anticipating traffic on the LIE is like not expecting heat on the Sun.

                          1. re: KTinNYC

                            Indeed. The LIE is a mess. We certainly expected it. Just not quite so much of it. A multi-car pileup in Queens made things a little nasty.

                            1. re: tupac17616

                              BTW, this is not a defense of the Maitre D'. His exploits are known far and wide. The fact that Babbo is popular with him at the podium is a testament to the food and over-all atmosphere.

                        2. It does sound like they were late, but my friend recently went to go eat at Babbo at 9:45pm on a Tuesday, when there were plenty of empty tables. The MD was incredibly rude and despite the many empty tables on a Tuesday, he made her wait 40 minutes and forced her to sit at the bar.

                          He did the same thing to other people who had reservations as well. She said that if the bartender hadn't been super sweet, the whole experience would have been ruined.

                          I've never eaten at Babbo but would like to for a special occasion. However, for that amount of money, I like to receive top tier service along with top notch food. Is the MD always this rude?

                          1. Despite reports that the food is good, I'll skip Babbo based on the OP's report of outrageously rude behavior of the MD. If restaurants like Per Se and EMP, that serve far better food, have staff that value their customers, there is no reason why I (or anyone) should spend money at Babbo.

                            15 Replies
                            1. re: ellenost

                              Wow...that's your mistake. The MD was out of line, but it seems like the OP made things rather difficult for them. Service can be unreliable, but I still think Babbo is one of the best high end meals in the city.

                              1. re: a_and_w

                                Not really. Since the OP was very late, and presuming the OP didn't exaggerate, the MD should have dealt with the situation with greater tact. Since many people have reported on this thread and elsewhere that Babbo seems to make many of its customers wait extraordinarily long times (yes- more than 30 minutes is extraordinarily long) if the MD allowed the OP to go "overtime" even by 20 minutes, I'm sure the OP would have had a more favorable story. What makes no sense about Babbo is that if they're keeping their customers on a tight time schedule, I can't figure out why anyone is left waiting 45 minutes at the bar. Seems like the OP was being punished by the MD. MDs can either make or break a restaurant. Rude MDs (I don't care it was a Saturday night) will break a restaurant. I've never seen anything less than absolute charm from the MDs at EMP or Per Se (and the former MD at Aureole). You may have my spot at Babbo anytime.

                                1. re: ellenost

                                  I agree the service at EMP and Per Se is far more refined -- that just isn't the vibe Batali is going for. I also agree the MD should have handled things more tactfully.

                                  But do you seriously not see the contradiction in your claim? You complain about people with reservations being made to wait 45 minutes for a table, yet you say the OP should have been allowed to dine overtime. I'll bet at least some of the people waiting 45 minutes are the result of others like the OP arriving 40 minutes late and/or dining overtime.

                                  1. re: a_and_w

                                    Actually there is no contradiction in my claim. Either (a) Babbo allows its customers to have unlimited time, thus making the next seating wait at the bar, or (b) it strictly enforces the timing of its diners and eliminates the waiting time for the next group. What is not fair is that the MD selectively strictly enforces a certain time period for certain diners, while allowing others to stay as long as they wish--creating the waiting at the bar. Obviously, the MD was angry that the OP was very late, and the OP's table was being punished by forcing them to give up their table at 8 sharp, while other diners (who arrived on time) probably didn't have their tables taken away at a certain time period. The MD probably should have told the OP that they were too late for their reservation. The OP probably would have been angry, but again it was the OP's own fault that they were 40 minutes late (I'm not making excuses for the OP). BTW, on all of my reservation confirmations at Momofuku Ko, it clearly states that if you're 15 minutes late, your seat is given away. Needless to say, I plan accordingly to arrive on time.

                                    1. re: ellenost

                                      I think you're confusing two separate issues. Again, if your concern is really that people with reservations are being asked to wait 45 minutes, then the solution can't logically be to let already LATE arrivals dine LONGER. That makes no sense whatsoever -- you're exacerbating the very problem you sought to avoid.

                                      You do have a point that Babbo is enforcing its policies inconsistently. Obviously, the waits reported by customers with reservations mean that some diners are being allowed to arrive late and/or linger. But I question whether a restaurant really has an obligation to enforce its reservation policy consistently.

                                      Are you suggesting, for example, that they should impose time limits on diners who are late for their reservations even on quiet nights? What if the customers in question are highly valued regulars or even Mario himself? Restaurants make such exceptions all the time -- I wouldn't be surprised to learn even Momofuku Ko does as well.

                                      1. re: a_and_w

                                        I think you may have confused the issue. Either the restaurant is not fussy about turning tables, and the result is a wait at the bar for the next seating, or it "encourages" its diners (without the need to be told that they need to give up their tables at a certain time) to be finished by a certain time, and thereby eliminating the waiting time of the next seating. Many have reported that Babbo falls into the first category. However, the MD was angry at the OP so their table was apparently singled out for rushed (and rude) treatment. I've never read on this board or any other site that Babbo has ever told a table that they need to give up their table at a certain time. The MD sounds like a grumpy guy, and my choice is not to subject myself to rude treatment (no matter how good the food may be). Let's put this argument to an end. BTW, I'm a regular at Ko, and they do a nice job of pacing their diners so the first seating is done well before the second seating arrives to avoid any waiting at the front door.

                                        1. re: ellenost

                                          I see your point, but still don't get why it has to be either/or. Let's bracket the behavior of this specific MD and customer for a moment. Can't a restaurant with a liberal policy toward turning tables make an exception on the busiest night of the week for a diner whose behavior suggests they may cause inordinate delay?

                                          Also, I want to be clear that Babbo is not a place known for good service. While I've never experienced anything on the level of the OP, I've definitely had rushed, brusque service there. At Luppa and Mozza too. Unfortunately, that's par for the course at Batali joints. I don't excuse it, but find the food worth the annoyance.

                                          1. re: a_and_w

                                            Absolutely, a restaurant should always have the ability to have flexibility in the way it treats its customers. I just found the OP's story of their treatment by the MD as beyond outrageous. I do remember years ago a restaurant reservationist telling me when I made a reservation that they expect the table back in 2 hours (I decided not to proceed with the reservation). If Babbo routinely tells its customers that they are expected to leave after 2 hours then one knows what to expect. If they don't do this, but it was only the OP that was told that their table would needed to be finished within 75 minutes, that does seem spiteful on the part of the MD. I may be in the minority, but I find that poor service ruins even the best of food (and great service can even improve my impression of a restaurant that serves merely okay food).

                                  2. re: ellenost

                                    1) You arrived 45 minutes late on a saturday night at perhaps the busiest place in NYC - after 15 minutes your table should have been given away. they accomodated you
                                    2) after you arrived very late, then you requested a tasting menu, laughable...when they refused you went ahead and essentially ordered one anyway..rude
                                    3) then you have the nerve to have a friend show for dessert!!, and you didnt inform them prior...terrible, simply inexcuseable

                                    Im sorry, but you were treated like crap because they never want you back in their restaurant, and if I owned it neither would I.

                                    1. re: Cpalms

                                      To your other points, I've already responded elsewhere, but to number 2 in particular, I suppose I did not make it clear that (A) we didn't request a tasting menu (and I didn't want one); we were simply told in advance that it wasn't an option, and (B) in the cases where we ordered more than three dishes for a course (which we did for both antipasti and primi), we asked to have them all delivered at once so that we could work within the time constraints we were given.

                                2. re: ellenost

                                  Just out of curiosity, if Babbo had decided to give the OP's table away, would there have been anyone to give it to? Difficulties in getting a table at Babbo are legendary, so much so that I assumed no one ever walked in at primetime dining hour, on a weekend no less, hoping they'd be able to get a table. I know people walk in super early and/or walk in to sit at the bar, but the thought that there may have been people sitting around hoping that a four-top would open up at 6:30ish on a Saturday night is really surprising to me. So I guess what I'm getting at is, would Babbo even have been able to give the table away? Wouldn't the only people there be people with reservations too? (Unless maybe some lucky soul who expected to sit at the bar could have snagged the table, I guess?)

                                  1. re: therenowtoo

                                    You know...I was all set to jump on your post. But the more I think about it, you raise an interesting question. In my experience there are always walk-ins, even at prime time. But my last visit was a couple of years ago, and the economy has only gotten worse. It's possible Babbo's decline in business is reflected in the loss of impulse diners, who are more likely to show up around then. One does have to wonder why he didn't just give away the table to someone else.

                                    1. re: a_and_w

                                      Well gosh, I'm glad you didn't jump all over my post for what, I swear, was a genuine question. I would never dream of walking into Babbo during prime dinner hours on a weekend expecting to sit anywhere but the bar, and I'd expect a wait for that. (Based on no personal experience, mind you, but only things I've read here). It's been really interesting to learn that others are less risk adverse than I am and that people do just walk in for table service.

                                    2. re: therenowtoo

                                      there are always always walk ins ready waiting for bar seats that would kill for a real table...always...just look at how many posts there are on chowhound asking for advice on sitting at the bar, this subject is definately in the top 5 recurring topics on chowhound..

                                      http://search.chow.com/search?query=b...

                                      1. re: therenowtoo

                                        In my experience, the bar area is always full of people waiting to eat at the bar or a table, whichever happens to open up first...because there are occasions, from what I've seen, where tables do open up unexpectedly.

                                        Also, because the tables in the bar area are first come, first served, I've also seen walk-ins who don't want to sit at the bar, but would rather wait for one of those front tables, so some walk-ins do come specifically requesting a table... and often have to wait a long time as a result.

                                    3. I happened to love the food when I went to Babbo for the first time a couple of weeks ago, but the maitre'd was unbelievably rude and snobby. I don't know how someone thinks it's acceptable to treat people like he does. We arrived a few minutes late, and were absolutely scolded for it. Then, when he asked for how many were in our party, we said "3" and he said a terribly rude manner, "WELLLL, it says we have you for 4" and sighed. This is absolutely incorrect - I distinctly remember my sister's husband making the reservations right in front of me and being confused when I heard it would be 3 because it was his birthday dinner (turns out it wasn't, it was a surprise for me because I helped them find restaurants on their honeymoon). It was clear he didn't believe us and seemed irritated we'd even question him. I don't know where he gets off being so flippant and snotty - you're a maitre'd, you're no better than anyone else walking into the restaurant. It's like a cashier at a designer clothing store with delusions of grandeur.

                                      1. I have long been the lonely anti-Babbo curmudgeon here. I suddenly feel less alone. It was a s***show when I went, but I credit my perception to having lived in Umbria and Tuscany and hating the conceptualizing of the Italian food experience. Having a waiter try to lecture my about the appropriate cheese for a pasta was kind of funny to me, especially when I broke into Italian and he kind of shrunk into his shirt. I guess if one has a certain level of expendable funds, it doesn't matter that it's such an unfair shake and the vibes are obnoxious. When you grew up on that block and remember the great food that used to be put out in the Village for fair prices, you get depressed.
                                        I credit Mario with coming up with a concept that sold. I did have a good meal at Lupa, but, again, the noise and pretense of it being some uber-Italian experience was laughable. I would assume any visiting Roman would agree. The best food in Rome is in little neighborhood trats, so Lupa must seem pretty overblown and silly to natives of that city, where I resided as a youngster. As far as reserving so far in advance, God knows what I'll be doing a month or months hence.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: sing me a bar

                                          I am from Chicago and i was on the board looking for a place for our next trip. I can't imagine a restaurant lasting very long in Chicago with this kind of treatment. I am sure that the OP should have not been late. I am also sure it might have been better to just say we can't accept you and offer another solution. I am sure this will not be one of my choices.

                                          1. re: sing me a bar

                                            "I have long been the lonely anti-Babbo curmudgeon here..."
                                            Along with Leah B, Foodwisperer, Simon, Mikelock34, Yummyinthecity, Jonas Blank, Mellie Mea, Demigodh, Kelea, Sam1, and Wryouwhite.

                                            1. re: wew

                                              Another anti-Babbo curmudgeon coming out of the woodwork... I just don't think that the food deserves the attention that it receives on this board. It is competent, but far from remarkable, imho.