The pasta tasting menu at Babbo has been on my “to do” list for several years. I finally got around to it on Friday. (A copy of the menu is below; click for a larger image.)
Everything was very good, but the savory courses ended with a whimper. The last two — “Domingo’s Pyramids” (pyramid-shaped pasta pillows with braised beef), and Pappardelle Bolognese — were items any decent cook could make at home. Babbo prepared them perfectly, but the degree of difficulty seemed low.
Among the earlier courses, my favorite was a ravioli (called Casunzei) filled with layers of beets and goat cheese. I also loved a black tagliatelle with parsnips and pancetta. The three dessert courses were fine, but again, two of the three were not especially complex.
The bread service was peculiar, in that it came with neither butter nor olive oil, nor indeed anything but the bread itself (served cold). The omission was clearly not an accident, as we noticed complaints about it at other tables.
I have no complaint with the price: $69 for eight courses (five pastas, three desserts) is an outrageously good deal. I even found a good wine for just $34, a level seldom seen these days in practically any restaurant, much less one of Babbo’s quality.
Babbo remains one of the city’s toughest reservations to get. The reservation line opens at 10:00 a.m. for one month out, and the line is usually busy for hours. By the time you get through, they’re usually sold out, or close to it. The best they could offer on a Friday evening was 5:45 p.m.
On past visits (here, here) I’ve dined at the bar (or the Enoteca, as they call it). Indeed, no one at Babbo seems to use the bar for its usual purpose—pre or post-dinner drinks. By the time I arrived at around 5:30, every stool was taken, and place settings laid for dinner. I was therefore dismayed that the staff would not seat me in the dining room until my girlfriend arrived, as there is literally nowhere to wait. By the time we left, the scrum around the host stand was nearly impassable. We felt sorry for the people who were actually trying to eat in that space.
Once we were finally seated, Babbo offered a much more refined experience. There are a lot of very good things on the menu, but on the whole I am not sure it’s worth the trouble.
Babbo (110 Waverly Place between MacDougal St. & Sixth Ave., Greenwich Village)