Rustic Semolina Bread with Butter, Olive Oil, Balsamic
Country Style Pate with Blackberry Conserva, Foraged Greens and Cotica
Warm Tripe “alla” Romana with Charred Bread
Pork Trotter Ravioli with Lilie Ragu and Chive Blossoms
Beef Cheek Ravioli with Black Truffles and Crushed Duck Liver
Rabbit Porchetta with Carrot Sformato, Sunflower Sprouts and Crispy Confit
Lamb Saddle with Baby Artichoke Crema and English Peas
Chocolate Budino with Warm Chocolate Sauce
Fresh Grilled Peaches with Roast Peach Sorbet and Mascarpone
Double Espresso on Ice
First experiencing Mario Batali’s cuisine on an off-chance reservation at Babbo during a fateful trip to Manhattan in June of 2008, where the Chef and his team delivered a memorable respite from life’s unpleasant moments, and having since dined at several Batali & Bastianich establishments from coast-to-coast it surprises me even as I write these words that it took me so long to visit Venetian mainstay B&B Ristorante – a pre-theater four-course dinner with a friend again proving the restaurateur’s abilities to source the finest people and ingredients for his ever expanding empire. Clearly influenced by his famous space on Waverly Place, both in design and in offerings, but differing slightly in vibe as a dimly lit room with R.E.M. playing gently overhead was complimented by lovely service from a young woman named Kelly our meal began with the staple-amuse of tender, spiced chickpeas on crisp bread and with proper bread service replenished frequently thereafter not a single bite of the food that followed would prove short of exemplary. Eschewing lighter ‘spring’ flavors in favor of signatures until later in the meal our first course arrived with creamy pate of pork delivering plenty of spice and sapor while tender tripe compensated for its small portion with textbook texture and complex aromatics – a trend carried over to each $26 plate of pasta; the raviolis averaging approximately $4 each but so delicate, stuffed, and well sauced that it hardly seemed to matter until the plate was wiped spotless with plans to return for the pasta tasting menu swirling my mind. Transitioning smoothly to things more substantial it would be an exercise in futility to determine whether the rich, caramelized-yet-rare spring lamb over smoky artichoke puree or the nutty roulade of rabbit with flan of carrots was a superior secondi and finishing with dessert both the simple peach presentation and an atypical soufflé-style budino showed the pastry kitchen’s prowess – a Babboesque box of petit fours and a double espresso sending us to theater with full bellies and broad smiles.
FOUR STARS: Obviously prone to complaints of discrepancy in price-to-portion ratio for “Italian food” that many claim to be offered at a better value from their local mom n’ pop joint a meal at B&B Ristorante is better taken as a “Fine dining” event rather than any regional cuisine – not only does the sourcing, preparation, and presentation deserve it but so does the service. Certainly not a cheap meal as the average diner is unlikely to exit for less than a Benjamin suffice it to say that for a ‘celebrity chef’ meal on The Strip B&B delivers where many mail it in, a similar sentiment applicable to Palazzo’s Carnevino, though the latter is ever so slightly a better ‘experience.’
RECOMMENDED: Everything we ordered was reference standard, but for those focused on value the secondi are where to invest at nearly every Batali restaurant I’ve been lucky enough to visit. For those willing to spend for quality, ravioli and other filled pastas are amongst the best in the country.
AVOID: Filling up on the bread…though It is really quite delicious and mandatory for wiping up sauces.
TIP: Pasta tastings, traditional tastings, and prix-fixe are available for those eyeing variety as a solo but much like other restaurants of this ilk those who are happy to share are benefitted by the more diverse offerings a la carte.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor