As a self-proclaimed foodie living in New York City, I have a (long) bucket list of must-have meals…. which includes everything from that hole-in-the-wall Thai place serving authentic Bangkok street food to that Michelin star restaurant helmed by a James Beard-award winning chef. This city has some pretty incredible restaurants that sometimes, just sometimes, I’m lucky enough to dine at!
One such restaurant (which I’m categorizing firmly in the “splurge” section of my post-grad budget) is Babbo, the West Village Italian restaurant from the Mario Batali /Joe Bastianich restaurant empire.
Courtesy of Babbo
Whether a New Yorker or not, you’ve probably heard of Mario Batali. You may have seen his stints on television from his first Food Network show, Molto Mario (one of my favorites) to his reign as Iron Chef to his current daytime gig on ABC’s The Chew.
I’ve been a Mario Batali fan for ages. His Food Network show, Molto Mario, was one of the first cooking shows I fell in love with… and one of the better ones on television in my opinion. I loved his passion for Italian cuisine… his silly Crocs… his Mario Batali-isms (“Parmigiano-Reggiano, the undisputed king of cheeses”). He’s a chef I’ve admired, and one who’s transition into television I’ve respected.
Courtesy of Esquire
Similarly, Joe Bastianich (son of chef Lidia Bastianich) is no stranger to TV, serving as a judge on Masterchef US. The two make a funny pair — Batali is rarely without his signature Orange crocs and Joe’s got the Simon Cowell frown down to a science, but their passion for Italian cuisine and wine, respectively, is contagious!
In addition to their TV exposure of late, the two have seven restaurants together in New York, including Babbo, Del Posto, Esca and Otto (each award winning and profiling a different aspect of Italian cuisine). And of course, they have the Italian super-store / restaurant mecca that is Eataly in the Flatiron district (also in other cities and countries!). They are really the heavyweights and reigning champions of the New York restaurant scene! (For more history on their restaurant endeavors, check out Bastianich’s memoir, Restaurant Man).
Babbo Ristorante (which means ‘daddy’ in Italian) is their flagship New York restaurant and opened in 1998. Babbo boasts an extensive Italian wine list, regional Italian specialties, and simple, rustic classics that use local and seasonal ingredients. The space is beautiful – a two-story restaurant that has an incredible bar on the first floor and a beautiful staircase leading up to the second. And its located steps away from Washington Square Park too – a gorgeous section of New York and the West Village straight from a movie set.
But with most must-dine-at New York restaurants, reservations are hard to come by – they are only available a month in advance and the reservation line opens at 10am everyday. And so, it was heaven-sent when the reservations gods shined down upon us…
While the whole menu at Babbo is unbelievable, we chose to go with the pasta tasting menu with wine pairings. As to be expected, Babbo makes all their pastas from scratch and in house. (How I wish I could just make all different types homemade pasta all day like a little Italian grandmother!)
First course – a squid ink Black Tagliatelle with Parsnips and Pancetta, paired with Langhe Arneis, Brandini 2012.
Second course – “Casunzei” (a beet filled pasta traditional of north-east Italy) with Poppy Seeds paired with Pinot Grigio Ramato “XL,” Scarbolo 2010. I’ve never had this type of pasta before – it’s a filled pasta common of the North-Eastern area of Italy and traditionally filled with potatoes, beets and turnips. This was delicious!
Third course – Garganelli with “Funghi Trifolati” with Barbera del Monferrato Superiore “Rossore Special Edition” Iuli 2010. This was a simple mushroom pasta dish – anything with mushrooms and butter/oil is good in my book!
Fourth course – “Agnolotti al Pomodoro” with Morellino di Scansano “I Perazzi” La Mozza 2011. I first saw Agnolotti prepared on Masterchef by Lidia and Joe Bastianich. I had never heard of it before and since then, I’ve become obsessed with it. Since eating it at Babbo for the first time, I’ve seen it at countless menus and just had pumpkin agnolotti at Craft Restaurant. It’s amazing! I gotta learn how to make it from scratch.
Fifth course – Pappardelle Bolognese with “Vespa Rosso” Bastianich 2010. A traditional pasta with Bolognese sauce, heavenly! This was our second Bastianich wine of the evening. I was very impressed and strangely had never thought the Bastianich family produced wine (despite how much Joe is known for wine).
This entire tasting menu complete with the wines was a heavenly — perfect portion with different samplings from all over Italy. It highlights the variety within Italian cuisine and the deliciousness that comes from using the best fresh ingredients with minimal fuss.
And for dessert, included in the tasting menu, we had five amazing sweets — a quince yogurt copetta, a small bite, followed by four different desserts for our table… which we all split. One of them was their Olive Oil Cake and gelato; another a cranberry apple cake; one, a white chocolate cheesecake and the last a pumpkin tart … each was so different from the last and delicious!
Not only was the food amazing, but the whole experience was incredible. Our waiter, Matthew was knowledgeable and personable, sharing his recommendations and being a helpful guide through the regional specialties of the menu. It was great!
If you ever have the chance to dine at Babbo, take it! It was one of the best meals I’ve had since moving to New York. It can be a little pricey… but it’s worth every penny! Really, you can’t go wrong with any Batali/ Bastianich venture either… head to the beer garden at Eataly (on the roof) or a quick bite at Otto, and I promise you will not be disappointed.
Side note – inspired by the food at Babbo, I’ve begun making my own pasta at home… check it out at my blog. I even made the beet and poppy seed pasta from the Babbo tasting menu!