Although Mario Batali's Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca has been open since 1998, not only receiving tremendous critical acclaim and having a reputation for being difficult to obtain reservations, it was never open for lunch until very recently: April 17, 2012, to be exact. It just so happened that on that day I was talking to a friend about making lunch plans, and we decided to look into Babbo to see if that may be an option. Ding ding ding!! We must have been psychic because Babbo's new lunch menu was the culinary news of the day. I immediately got us a reservation for later that week (since lunch was so new, getting a reservation was less of a challenge than dinner would be on such short notice), as we were both anxious to check it out.
We definitely noticed some growing pains, an understandable result of hiring a completely new staff to compliment the original dinner staff at the restaurant. While our waiter was very friendly and helpful, a couple of the back-waiters were a tad clumsy with clearing silverware, and also should have crumbed our table more frequently as the crusty bread made a bit of a mess from the very start of our meal.
As a complimentary start, we enjoyed some chickpea bruschetta. It was delicious and I loved the acidity in the dressing for the chickpeas. I look forward to trying it at home!
|Steamed Cockles in Red Chili Brodetto with Spring Onion Fett'unta $15|
We decided to share a starter and two pasta entrees for our meal. The steamed cockles in red chili brodetto with spring onion fett'unta was a winner in our eyes. Although the cockles were small and delicate, the broth was a perfect balance of flavor. We wiped the plate clean with our deliciously crusty Italian bread. The fett'unta is essentially the best garlic bread ever. It was perfectly charred, drizzled with a very aromatic olive oil and had a nice mild onion flavor from the spring onions. A sprinkling of salt added just the right final touch to make this a seriously successful starter.
|Black Spaghetti with Fennel, Jalapenos, and Bottarga $19 (photo is half portion)|
Next we shared the black spaghetti with fennel, jalapenos, and bottarga. The kitchen split this for us into two separate dishes to make sharing much easier (always grateful!). The spaghetti had a great chewy bite, although the jalapeno was considerably mild in the dish. It resulted in a soft heat in the background of the dish. I loved the garlicky bread crumb finish to the dish which added an additional element of texture and flavor.
|Gnocchi al Telefono with Mozzarella di Bufala $19 (photo is half portion)|
We also shared (split into two dishes again) the gnocchi al telefono which features Mario's grandmother's recipe for gnocchi, a very simple tomato sauce, and easily some of the best buffalo mozzarella we have every tried. Each cube in the dish had a truly milky and decadent flavor that elevated this very simple dish of light-as-air-pillows. Next time I would love more of this mozzarella di bufala, and will probably get the appetizer option that is served with salumi.
|Olive Oil and Rosemary Cake with Olive Oil Gelato $13|
Dessert was a must, and we shared the olive oil and rosemary cake. It had a lovely flavor and texture that paired perfectly with the mild olive oil gelato that it was served with. This was the perfect end to our meal in addition to the complimentary almond cookies served along with our check, and a very long-awaited visit to one of New York's favorite restaurants in a brand new time slot.
Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca
110 Waverly Place
New York, NY 10011