Friday, February 18, 2011

Babbo Review

Go for the pasta. That goes for too many Italian restaurants. Go for the warm, inviting atmosphere. It's like being at home, except you'll get waited on. Go for the best of Mario Batali. You'll have to plan ahead for one of the hard-to-come-by reservations, but it's better than waiting on line at Eataly. Whatever reason brings to you Babbo, you'll likely find something to enjoy about it. 

You can try the pasta tasting menu if you don't want to think too much about what to order, but better yet, craft your own version of it and share. You can come out ahead, sample the pastas that you find most appealing and get larger portions of them. That's what my dining companion and I did on this visit, when we were seated in the much more pleasant upstairs room.

Marinated chickpeas in balsamic vinegar, olive oil and chili flakes kicked things off. It tasted, oddly, like hot dogs.

The roasted beet tartare was a mold of chopped red and yellow beets marinated in chianti vinegar, topped with a wig of ricotta salata. Beside it sat several condiments — capers, an anchovy paste, sea salt, green onions and mustard — which were fun to alternate between on the olive oil-drizzled toast.

Bucatiniall’Amatriciana with guanciale, hot pepper and Pecorino is a good option for an Italian standard. Had the pasta been chewier and offered a little more burn, it would have been more satisfying.

The garganelli, rough hand-rolled pasta served with mushrooms, were cooked perfectly and split into separate portions for us. It was a bit on the salty side though.

The pumpkin lune with sage and amaretti were delicious. The dish managed to balance the sweetness well.

The homemade orecchiette with sweet sausage and rapini was the best of what we tried. A heap of dense ears of pasta tossed in tomato sauce with sausage crumbles and greens is a good way to round out the meal.

We also ordered a side of Brussels sprouts, which came nicely charred. It was mixed with some overly crisp chunky pancetta.

The cranberry crostata was a generously sized polenta pastry filled with creamy caramel and topped with a tart layer of cranberries. The ricotta gelato was a nice flavor that helped to mellow out the tartness. And mellow is the way you should feel after a meal at Babbo.

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