There is no doubt that New York City is a superb fine dining destination. The choices are almost endless when determining where to take in a great culinary experience.
Also undeniable is Mario Batali’s food knowledge and expertise. One of my favorite chefs, his acumen is evident and comes alive, here, at Babbo — a true gem located at 110 Waverly Place, at the Northwest corner of Washington Square Park in New York’s quaint residential neighborhood of Greenwich Village.
Reservations are known to be booked a month in advance, however, there are always seven tables available in the bar to patrons who do not have reservations. The restaurant, founded by Chef Batali and restaurateur Joe Bastianich, first opened in June 1998 and, in the same year, received a James Beard award for best new restaurant.
My Experience at Babbo:
When I called to inquire about reservations at Babbo, I already came to the conclusion I’d be out of luck and I was one-hundred percent correct. So, I rolled the dice and decided to try my chances at one of the seats at the bar. Upon arrival I was intrigued by the fact it was located in a beautiful building between two homes occupied by families. I later came to discover that one of the houses was once one of the city’s most beloved restaurants, The Coach House on Waverly Place. As we entered the building we were greeted by a friendly host who urged us to wait as he guessed a table would be available within forty-five minutes to an hour. We smiled with delight.
Turned out the wait would eventually become three hours — and it was well worth it!
Upon being seated and viewing the menu, I quickly realized my tastebuds would be in for culinary delights to which most Americans might turn the other cheek.
Dishes such as Fresh Anchovies & Warm Testa (Head Cheese), Bucatini with Octopus, Beef Cheek filled Ravioli topped with Squab Livers, Lamb’s Tongue and Calf Brains, peppered the menu and my mouth was watering with anticipation. My biggest Dilemma of the night came down to choosing the antipasti (appetizer).
Personally, it was a showdown between the Pig Foot Milanese with Rice Beans and Arugula, or the warm Lamb’s Tongue with Brown Beech Mushrooms and a Three-Minute Egg. I chose the Pig Foot Milanese. The dish was so amazing that I have a hard time describing it. The best way I can is to say it is a paper thin, crunchy, gelatinous heaven.
My girlfriend chose the Steamed Cockles with Red Chiles and Basil, which was prepared to perfection with a Chili and Basil scented broth that I can still taste if I close my eyes and reminisce hard enough.
For the main entree, I indulged in the Gnocchi with Braised Oxtail, which was hands down the best Gnocchi dish I have experienced, to date. It was, honestly, that good.
My girlfriend ordered the Black Spaghetti with Rock Shrimp, Spicy Salami Calabrese and Green Chiles. The dish was so tasty and full of magnified, complex flavors, I’d be stumped if asked to replicate the dish, on the spot.
To conclude our already fantastic meal, we decided upon a trio of desserts that included Saffron Panna Cotta with Apricots, Chamomile and Apricot Sorbetto, Peach and Walnut Budino with ‘Gelato di Panna’, Sweet Corn Crema with Cornmeal Bomboloni and Blackberries.
Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca,in my mind, redefines and reinvents the principles of Italian cuisine in America. Along with its expert, attentive, and cordial service, Babbo is definitely, in my book, one of New York’s prized possessions.
What is Enoteca?
Enoteca is a concept that literally means “wine repository”. An Enoteca is driven by giving tourists or visitors in Italy the possibility to taste regional wines at a reasonable fee and, possibly, purchase them. An Enoteca often stocks small amounts of each wine with the thought that customers who wish to purchase large quantities, after tasting, are referred directly to the producers. Enotecas will also sell other local foods and/or serve snacks to go with the wines.
Babbo’s Awards and Honorable Mentions:
- 1998 Three Stars, New York Times
- 2002 Best Chef in New York City, James Beard Foundation
- 2004 Three Stars, New York Times
- 2005 Outstanding Chef in New York City, James Beard Foundation
- 2006 Best International Cookbook for Molto Italiano, James Beard Foundation
- 2008 Best Individual Reservationist
- 2008 Outstanding Restaurateur for Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, James Beard Foundation
And…There’s Even a Cookbook!