Planning a trip to NYC on less than a month’s notice, reservations were seemingly out of the question and my mother, sister, and I had planned to arriive early and sit at the bar. Driving through Pennsylvania we called around 10:20am the day of the meal and asked about cancellations. “3 people? Sure, how about 6:30” said the young lady on the phone. “Fantastic” I said, not wanting to sound as excited as I was.
Selecting 4 pastas, one appetizer, a main, and three desserts we couldn’t have been more pleased with the quality, timing, and graciousness of our service. Served in courses we were first presented with a glorious amuse of spicy chickpea Bruschetta with a flawless contrast of creamy, chewy, and crunchy with just enough spice. Next came a crusty and hearty Italian bread with a smooth and balanced olive oil….I undoubtedly ate far too much of this.
For our appetizer we selected the Grilled Octopus with Borlotti Marinati and Spicy Limoncello Vinaigrette. Without carying on too much, this is the best octopus and best appetizer I’ve ever experienced. Crunchy and chewy, spicy and tart….flawless and a must-order, even for the seafood naive. Our second ‘course’ consisted of the Goat Cheese Tortelloni with Dried Orange and Wild Fennel Pollen plated on three seperate plates, plus a center plate of the Goose Liver Ravioli with Balsamic Vinegar and Brown Butter. While the Tortelloni was delicious and perfectly delicate in taste and texture, the spotlight was unfortunately taken by the incredible Ravioli that can only be described as perfect. A combination of sweet, smooth, fatty, creamy, and hefty I could have eaten this all night and will undoubtedly be attempting to recreate the magic from the Babbo cookbook soon.
Our next course began with the Braised Oxtail Gnocchi plated for three and a center plate of the Pumpkin Lune with Sage and Amaretti cookie. While I’m not a big fan of beef, the gnocchi was toothsome and delectable while literally melting in the mouth and made me rethink my take on beef in general. Like the other pasta course, however, the show was stolen by the Lune/Ravioli. Similarly delicate to the totelloni, these transparent and perfect pockets were wonderfully sweet and smooth while the filling burst forth with a complex smoothness. After the pastas, I wondered why dessert was even necessary….more pasta would have sufficed.
The main selected was the Grilled Pork Chop with Cherry Peppers, Cipolline and Aceto Manodori and like the pasta, the dish was superb. I have no idea how one cooks such a thick piece of meat so perfectly through without a bit of char, but somehow Babbo’s chef did what even the masters at Mastro’s could not. Perfect pork in a huge portion with a sauce that could double as a sweet beverage. Incredible.
Although full, after a dinner of this caliber I couldn’t possibly pass up coffee and dessert. While the coffee was a standard drip, the box of condiments was excellent and the brown sugar sticks a real treat. For desserts, my sister went with her standard, the cookie plate, while I opted for the Strawberry Crostata with Caramel Gelato and my mom chose the Maple Marscapone Cheesecake. While all 3 desserts were excellent and the Cheesecake a truly unique representation of the genre, none were as mind-blowing as the pasta and none were as delicious as the choices at Otto a few days later. The biscotti petit fours that completed the meal, however, were mesmerizing.
All told, I had extremely high expectations walking into Babbo and all of these expectations were not only met, but exceeded. In a vacation that included meals at Gramercy Tavern, EMP, Momofuku Noodle, Otto, Norma’s, and more Babbo was not only the best food, but possibly the best food experience of my life. Perfect service, perfect food, great music, and a glorious scene…..amazing.