First time for Babbo
DMR and I recently celebrated our wedding anniversary with a dinner at Babbo. Exactly one month out at 10 AM, I began calling their notorious reservation line. After about 50 redials, I got through! The only seatings available were for 5:45 and 10:30 PM, neither of which perfect but at least we got through. I opted for the early reservation.
We were seated upstairs, where everything was oxy-clean white. The brightness was enhanced by the light coming through the skylight. Early on, there were more servers and employees than diners which made me nervous at first, but they were hardly obtrusive. I had been waiting for this day for a long time. I studied the menu, read post after post on Chowhound and asked questions of friends who had eaten there.
Soon after being seated at our table, our server presented us with an amuse bouche of chickpea tapenade crostini. Yum, although there was a bit of pit on my piece. As Dan popped the last piece of bread into his mouth, a server appeared and placed a new piece on his plate.
While I drink wine, I really don't know anything about it. The wine list at Babbo is massive, but the sommelier did a nice job of guiding us through it and pointing out various options at different price points. We got a very modest bottle that was about $30 and turned out to be perfectly fine. It didn't hurt that the label had a cute little red dog on it! I swear I had no idea. I love that they decanted it and also put a little metal tray under the bottle to prevent drips from hitting the tablecloth.
To begin with, we ordered the grilled octopus and Armandino’s Salumi. The octopus was super tender with bits of char marks that offered up some additional smokiness. It was served atop borlotti (similar to kidney beans) and basil, with a garnish of watermelon radish, chive and drizzling of limoncello vinaigrette. The plate was also a knockout visually. The salumi platter consisted of lamb proscuitto and hot sopressata, and two hunks of grilled bread. The lamb proscuitto was interesting, but not my favorite as it was a little gamey and I'm not the biggest lamb fan. But I really wanted to try Armandino's wares. The sopressata, on the other hand, I could have eaten all day long. Sopressata is such a magical meat!
Here's where all my research came in handy. Most everyone will agree that the secondis are very good. However, the consensus seemed to be that if you were going to get one thing, you get the pasta. So that's what we did. I had also read that if you tell your server you're sharing, they'll actually bring the meal out in two portions, which is what they did. Funny, I'm not a lamb person at all, but we opted for another lamb dish, the Mint Love Letters as well as the Beef Cheek Ravioli, which made Dan scrunch up his face even though he had no idea what a beef cheek is and even though I told him the meat would not be recognizable at all and that it would be delicious.
The love letters were rectangular packets of al dente pasta filled with a pea puree and topped with tomato based sauce and spicy lamb sausage. The ravioli followed and it was as rich and decadent a pasta dish you could get. The sauce, made of the liver, was flecked with bits of black truffle. I haven't had truffles much, but each time I can't get over their texture, which I love. It's dense and soft and hard and delicate all at once. We also ordered a side of Babbo Greens, which turned out to be escarole that day. There was a lot of escarole on that plate.
How do people eat appetizers and primis and secondis? Before our pastas arrived, I wondered out loud if we had ordered enough food. By beef cheek ravioli time, I was really getting stuffed! Even at half a portion each, it was a lot of food. Still, we ordered two desserts, the ricotta cheesecake with strawberries and balsamic vinegar and the pistachio and chocolate semifreddo.
The cheesecake was yummy - creamy but light and I've never come across a plate of strawberries, balsamic and fresh whipped cream that I did not like. The semifreddo, which had a similar texture, only cold, was dynamite, worthy of plate-licking, which we did not do. But something tells me the folks at Babbo would be ok with it.