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Babbo or Scarpetta?

We'll be in NYC for a few nights next month and want to have a couple of amazing dinners...one Italian. I am kind of jonesing to try Scarpetta, while my Mario-Batali-fan spousal unit is itching to go to Babbo. Can anyone who has been to both compare and contrast for me?

We are also looking for recs for another dinner. We're okay spending up to $300 with a couple of glasses of wine apiece. We will be staying in the Chelsea district, so close is better. We like Spanish/tapas, French, Italian and New American the best. I've seen the famous spots on Food Network, but would like to know the locals' faves for a nice dinner in the area.

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Babbo
110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

Scarpetta
355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

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  1. Easy, Babbo.

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    Babbo
    110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

    18 Replies
    1. re: RCC

      Does it depend somewhat on what the diner orders? Are the most delicious dishes one can make a meal of at Babbo better than the most delicious dishes one can make a meal of at Scarpetta? Having been to both restaurants only once (plus a lunch at L'Impero several years ago), I don't have enough information to know.

      1. re: Pan

        Scott Conant's team does a pretty good job with pasta: the iconic spaghetti al pomodoro is pretty good, the agnolotti dal plin (sp?) is very good.
        I'm a fan of the apps. The creamy polenta is very good, ridiculously rich and faithfully replicated at the Miami outpost. The short rib app is a mandatory sidekick to the polenta and needs to be mixed 50-50 with it.
        At the end of the day, Scarpetta is enjoyable, especially if you sit at the bar, munch the house-made chips and make friends with the barkeep.
        Is Scarpetta the equal of Babbo? Not by a long shot. Is Scarpetta a worthy destination? Absolutely. I go to both.

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        Babbo
        110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

        Scarpetta
        355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

        1. re: steve h.

          Glad to see this. We've been to Babbo once and Scarpetta has been on my short list. Hoping to get back in March. I think we'll try Scarpetta. Thanks, steve.

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          Babbo
          110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

          Scarpetta
          355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

          1. re: c oliver

            c, don't miss the polenta - it's outstanding...though i fear you may never be satisfied with your oven-baked version again after having it! ;)

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              Naughty you! Polenta is one of my favorites so Scarpetta goes a bit higher on my list.

              1. re: c oliver

                You'll have a swell time. Don't forget the house-made chips. You get 'em at the bar.

              1. re: steve h.

                Thanks, steve. Batali certainly inspires strong feelings on both sides, doesn't he? But since I get to NYC seldom and haven't eaten at Scarpetta (and ADORE polenta), I do want to check it out. With trips to Flushing and the Bronx also, we wind up running out of time.

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                Scarpetta
                355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                1. re: c oliver

                  I think SC has successfully replicated Scarpetta in Miami. Haven't tried the other outposts. Deb and I visited his Manhattan shop shortly after it opened, it was very good. We went back for the one-year anniversary and have been big fans ever since. The bar scene is interesting.

                  Batali is a lightning rod. I'm pretty fortunate in that I have ready access to his East Coast/West Coast places. Tarry Lodge in neighboring (to Stamford) Port Chester is a goto lunch spot for us at the bar.

                  So much food, so little time.

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                  Scarpetta
                  355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

          2. re: Pan

            "Are the most delicious dishes one can make a meal of at Babbo better than the most delicious dishes one can make a meal of at Scarpetta?"

            I tend to to like more rustic, regional and traditional foods. Babbo presents traditional regional Italian cooking better than most in the city. While I agree that the spaghetti dish and, to certain extent the polenta dish, as very good and quite rustic at Scarpetta, my general take on everything else that I've had was that they do a slightly more modern interpreation of Italian dishes. Aside from the spaghetti and the polenta, I have not been as impressed with the rest of the pasta and entrees at Scarpetta as I have been with those at Babbo.

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            Babbo
            110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

            Scarpetta
            355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

            1. re: RCC

              Thanks for the comprehensive comparison.

              1. re: Pan

                The point that Scarpetta is a bit more modern than Babbo definitely rings true for me. But in terms of food....

                The bread service at Scarpetta wins hands down. Multiple types of bread including focaccia and stromboli. Three kinds of spreads including citrus infused olive oil, eggplant carbonata, and mascarpone butter. Also the herbed chips at the bar are complimentary and great. Scarpetta is the clear winner here, especially if you are a bread lover.

                IMO Babbo has stronger starters. While the polenta at Scarpetta is great, the soups, salads, and raw fish dishes I've tried were merely good. Whereas Babbo offers the grilled octopus, warm tripe, salumi plate, testa, and pig's foot -- a few of these I consider iconic dishes. The Scarpetta antipasti list just doesn't seem as interesting to me. But I usually skip the short ribs because the rest of the meal is already so heavy, though I've heard good things.

                In terms of pastas, I'd be hard pressed to say who has the edge. The duck and foie ravioli, seafood tagliolini, spaghetti pomodoro are all great. The farfalle and cavatelli's I've had were very good. At Babbo, I'd say that the goose liver ravioli is one of my favorite dishes ever and I've had the bucatini, gnocchi, parpadelle, lamb's brain ravioli, beef cheek ravioli, the linguine (and possibly a few others) which are all also very good. The only disappointment I've had there is the mint love letters -- but Babbo's list of pasta is quite long. In my mind it's probably a wash because I basically love all kinds of pasta. YMMV.

                For mains, I either don't have space at Scarpetta or we have tried something that's fine but not amazing like the goat or venison. I've not tried the famous cod and I think last time I wanted to try the duck but was just too full. Whereas at Babbo, I have trouble deciding between the lamb chops, pork chop, sweetbreads, rabbit, or duck. From what I've been able to try, Babbo wins, but if you are fine without having a main, Scarpetta may hold more interest.

                For desserts, if you're an ice cream and sorbet person, it's Babbo all the way. The sampler plates I've had there have been phenomenal. Scarpetta's desserts that I've tried have been very good: the chocolate cake, olive oil cake, and rhubarb cake. But none have wowed me like the tristar strawberry crostata (seasonal) or the non-traditional schiacciata uva (brioche baked with concord grapes, also seasonal). Babbo seems to change the desserts a lot based upon seasonality so it's also a bit of luck of the draw. But you're get good desserts at both.

                Overall, if I have a spaghetti or bread basket craving, and want to be able to actually make a reservation easily, or drop by and sit at the bar comfortably, Scarpetta is where I'd go. But in terms of the menu, Babbo has more variety overall, and that's meant many more return visits from me. Funnily enough, I find the host at both to be standoffish and a bit cold, but I haven't had any service issues though I'd give the servers at Scarpetta the edge.

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                Babbo
                110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                Scarpetta
                355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                1. re: kathryn

                  I want to echo the bread at Scarpetta that kathryn mentions: I'm the guy who usually doesn't eat a single piece of bread, and I found the bread at Scarpetta a surprising treat and a highlight of the meal, which is saying a lot given the wonderful pastas and fish courses we had. Point being, even if you are not a "bread lover," the bread at Scarpetta is excellent.

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                  Scarpetta
                  355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

              2. re: RCC

                does scarpetta use canned tomatoes in winter season also? his(sc) fresh tommatoes are really better than canned tomatoes in terms of sweetness and flavour at batali's chains may or may not use ?

                1. re: hae young

                  I don't know what Scarpetta uses. But as far as I know, Babbo uses fresh tomatoes.

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                  Babbo
                  110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                  Scarpetta
                  355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                  1. re: RCC

                    i once heard batali saying in winter season his rest use canned tomatoes and not shamed of it.

                    1. re: hae young

                      Yes, I've heard that more than once and agree.

            2. re: RCC

              no one does it better than Babbo

              http://exm.nr/hQ2gdp

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              Babbo
              110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

            3. I love both but generally prefer Babbo to Scarpetta. And since Scarpetta has a branch in Miami Beach (I looked at your profile), I think that Babbo would probably be a more unique experience.

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              Babbo
              110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

              Scarpetta
              355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

              1 Reply
              1. re: fm1963

                Good point - Babbo is an old carriage house right by Washington Square Park on a pretty looking block and one of a kind, whereas Scarpetta keeps expanding everywhere.

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                Babbo
                110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                Scarpetta
                355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                1. Wow...thanks for the feedback, guys! I wasn't expecting such a unanimous vote for Babbo. I guess the hubster will get his way (assuming I can snag a reservation). We'll keep Scarpetta in mind as our fall-back.

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                  Babbo
                  110 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10011

                  Scarpetta
                  355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: sweet_polly

                    The bar at Babbo is a really good fall-back if you can't get a reservation.

                  2. I haven't been in awhile but there's a great tapas place called Tia Pol that's in Chelsea all the way West. It's not a formal or expensive restaurant and it doesn't take reservations so it may not be what you're looking for for your 2nd dinner but it fits the tapas bill and location request. They also do weekday lunch and weekend brunch.

                    Edited to add: It seems the chef at Tia Pol left for Txikito also in Chelsea. Maybe try that instead. I haven't been.

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                    Tia Pol
                    205 10th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: mla19

                      Txikito is really very good, have always had perfect service there too. Tía Pol is great but Txikito is usually less crowded and I think has somewhat better food.

                      Always wondered about the relationship between Tía Pol, Txikito and El Quinto Pino. Were Eder Montero and Alex Raij partners at Tía Pol at one time?

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                      El Quinto Pino
                      401 W 24th St, New York, NY 10011

                      Txikito
                      240 9th Ave, New York, NY 10001

                      1. re: Pedr0

                        Haven't been to Tia Pol in a while, but was at Txikito last month. Those were terrific tapas we had at Txikito

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                        Tia Pol
                        205 10th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                        Txikito
                        240 9th Ave, New York, NY 10001

                        1. re: Pedr0

                          "Alexandra Raij opened a tiny tapas bar called Tia Pol back in 2004 with partners Mani Dawes and Heather Belz. In 2007, the team, joined by Raij's husband, Eder Montero, debuted the even smaller El Quinto Pino.

                          Raij and Montero eventually split to launch Txikito on their own, but earlier this year returned to El Quinto Pino in exchange for their share in Tia Pol."

                          http://blogs.villagevoice.com/forkint...

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                          Tia Pol
                          205 10th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                          El Quinto Pino
                          401 W 24th St, New York, NY 10011

                          Txikito
                          240 9th Ave, New York, NY 10001