Babbo is a New York institution, one of several venues run by celebrity chef Mario Battali. The Greenwich Village venue is remarkably crowded, more so downstairs than the main upstairs room, and you certainly feel the sheer buzz of the dining scene.
Babbo is one of New York’s most popular restaurants (#3 in the 2009 Zagat) and I feel that I rather missed the boat by the time I visited. I went with a regular who had warned me of a decline in standards, and the 2009 Michelin Guide removed Babbo’s solitary star, something Michelin do not do lightly. I was hoping that these omens were somehow mistaken, but sadly they were not.
We tried a number of the pasta dishes (which regulars seem to think are the best bet). A black tagliatelle with parsnips and pancetta with green chilli was perhaps the best dish, decent pasta with a nice chilli kick. Otherwise dish after dish sampled (goat cheese tortellini, casunzei with poppy seeds, funghi pasta, pumpkin lune, mint love letters) was disappointing, nothing awful but just very ordinary. One exception was a complimentary radicchio salad, which had one of the worst salad dressings I have ever tasted – almost pure vinegar.
In such a madhouse of diners it must be very difficult for the kitchen to avoid slips, and it seems as popular now as it did when it had a much higher reputation. I just wished I had been able to eat at Babbo when it was actually trying.