We had a month to look forward to Babbo, since you need to call exactly a month in advance (by calendar day) to get reservations there. Now, Babbo is spoken of as one of the best Italian restaurants in the city and is known to be Mario Batali's best and favorite spot...and it shows. From the moment you walk into Babbo, you get the sense that everyone there feels lucky to be there. It's elegant & upscale, without being stuffy. We happened to eat there on a night that Mario himself was in the kitchen, albeit earlier that evening, before we got there.
They start you off with a small bite - we got chickpea and olive bruschetta. From there, there are several ways you can go:
-Tasting Menu: there are two - one is all pasta and one isn't. You can add along wine pairings for an extra $50/person. While we heard this was a great way to go and our waiter suggested it, he also mentioned that it's A LOT of food and Babbo doesn't skimp on their portion sizes, so we decided to not leave feeling like pigs.
-Share antipasta/pasta/main courses: You can split any combination of the three courses, since all the plates are huge and share-able.
-Share pasta/separate main courses: This is the way we went, detailed below...
We went with a bottle of white wine ($35) and ordered the Black Spaghetti with Rock Shrimp, Spicy Salami Calabrese and Green Chiles. Oh boy! Every bite was perfection - the chiles added just enough kick but didn't make it too spicy. There could have been more shrimp, but that didn't even matter because the pasta was that good.
For my entree, I got the Soft Shell Crab special with Polenta and Favas and I was slightly underwhelmed. The crab meat under the fried exterior didn't taste up to par with the rest of the meal. Also, the polenta lacked flavor and overall, I was expecting more.
Eric got the Grilled Pork Chop with Cherry Peppers, Cipolline and Aceto Manodori. It's a large portion of 2 chops, and can easily be split. After serving, they pour an aged balsamic vinegar on top. This "topping" really adds an extra dimension & in my opinion, it brings the whole dish to life. The chop is now oozing with flavor. It was cooked in such a way that the closer you got to the bone, the more rare it became (but never too rare) and the more & more flavorful it tasted. Of course, combining a bite of the crispy exterior & the rare interior is what it's all about.
For dessert, we shared the Banana Walnut Olive Oil Cake with Banana Yogurt Gelato and Creamy Caramel which was a delicious way to end the meal. Since having Mario's Olive Oil Gelato at Otto, we knew that he knew exactly what to do with Olive Oil in a dessert. We washed that down with a glass of Moscato which was a perfect accompanying drink!
We will definitely be back to Babbo - if not only for Jess to order an entree that she will love just as much as the dining experience and other bites she had. It's truly a special experience and is great for special occasions... like the 4 year anniversary we celebrated!!