Babbo lives on Waverly Place, nestled unassuminly in the West Village, tasteful in terms of blending in with the rest of the street. It's funny how I work in the area, yet had no idea the famed place was within such close proximity.

A colleague of mine visited New York City with a "bucket list" of things to do in a very short weekend. Obviously, I participated in this by facilitating the food portion of the visit. So, on a gray and drizzly Saturday evening, we schleped over to the West Village in order to try and get a last minute seat.


However, we did have to have a (nice) wait at the bar, where we enjoyed cocktails. My drink of choice? A nice gin (Tanqueray, Bombay, Hendrick's, or otherwise) and club soda. Along the bar, there were long and thin cheese breadsticks (the dry cracker type) and nice plump olives for the taking.

We were seated near the window at the front of the restaurant, wedged in a corner. Beggars can't be choosers, but come on, two health care professionals deserve a little better, no? We were brought menus almost right away.

There was a nice listing of lover-ly described foods, but towards the back, there were two tasting menus presented, one "traditional" and one "pasta", but with the stipulation that the entire table had to go with the same type. We chose the "traditional" tasting menu and opted for the non-wine-paired option, mostly because of our fondness for cocktails not limited to: Jack Daniels on the rocks, dirty Bombay Martinis, and Tanquerey and club sodas. Soon after, we were greeted with an amuse bouche and bread (yes in that order).

A cold chickpea mixture with balsamic vinegarette on toast.

This was tasty, but reminded me of the cold salads one gets at co-op or Whole Foods buffet sections. You know, a bit greasy, but good for what ails ya. I had the sense it would have been better served warm.

Ciabatta. Mostly burnt. Served sans butter, which is what I prefer but I considered strange for a restaurant in general. Unless I'm confused and you're not supposed to butter ciabatta.

Onward, ho!

Dish I: Duck Bresaola with Parmigiano and Aceto Manodori

This looks like it tastes, or vice versa. Yes, the plates the dishes were served on were all plain white plates, scratched up hardcore. I realize that many people have commented that the lighting in Babbo is not conducive to great food photography, but my Leica and I made the best of it. Obviously, one cannot go wrong with strips of fatty duck, drizzled in balsamic vinegrette and olive oil. There was a sort of cheese-cake perched on top of it, and I generally have a distaste for creamy and cheesy foods that are savory. Therefore, this was definitely not something I enjoyed, although I kept attempting to eat it. There was a crispy cheese cracker to top it off, and of course, tastes how you'd expect, cheese placed on a baking sheet and cooked to a crispy texture. Again, I ate the entire cracker, just because I like to finish what I started.

Dish II: Pappardelle with Chanterelles and Thyme

THIS WAS THE BEST PART OF THE ENTIRE EVENING. If I were to die tomorrow, this would be on my last meal tray. This was luscious pappardelle, cut in generous strips, cooked to an al dente I could never obtain, mixed with a butter sauce with beautiful chanterelle mushrooms. I could live in this dish. The noodles slip over your tongue and coat it with fat, leaving a nice base for juicy slices of mushroom to provide a bitter throwback to reality. This made me think I should have opted for the pasta tasting menu.

Dish III: Duck Tortelli with "Sugo Finto"

with Parmigiano...

This dish probably negated what I thought about the pappardelle. Looks tasty enough, and it was, at least the carbohydrate portion and tomato sauce. However, when one cuts open the wrapped noodle, one finds oily guts spilling out of pale ground duck, with a very harsh, non-duck, aversive flavor. Like I said, the redeeming quality was the noodle, but really the innards need a lot of work, or at least some flavoring to make it pleasing to the tongue.

Dish IV: Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Corn Fregula and Black Truffle Vinagrette

I'm not a big meat person, in fact, I really only eat fish unless I have to eat meat, or I get into a mood where I just really want a nice filet. This was medium-rare done pork tenderloin, with visible fat strips, and pretty tender. Also pretty generic, but the corn fregula really caught my attention. Perfectly cooked and served as a nice balance to the heavy pork. The greens also helped clear the palate. To be honest, I did not appreciate any truffle flavor, but overall this was a solid, if generic, dish.

Dish V: Coach Farm's Finest with Fennel Honey

I am only beginning to enjoy cheese on its own. This is YEARS in the making. I did not grow up on cheese, or even dairy products other than processed yogurts and ice creams. Therefore, my appreciation for cheeses has been underdeveloped and has only been maturing in the past few years. This was a nice firm (goat?) cheese, not too strong, served with toasted and french bread. The fennel honey was marvelous, although my dining partner thought the fennel overwhelmed everything. I personally like the taste of fennel and I thought it was quite enjoyable.

Dish VI: "Gelo alla Siciliana"

The beginning of the end: a watermelon puree/jelly topped with chopped pistachios and bittersweet chocolate. All three items I enjoy on their own, together, made some sort of kids' experiment. The watermelon actually tasted pretty artificial, like watermelon in Dum Dum lollipops. However, the pistachio and chocolate topping saved the dish, although I might disagree that the three ever should get together again.

Dish VII: Chocolate "Tartufino"

YUMMERS! My hemoglobin A1C is ruined by tasty desserts such as this. A beautiful chocolate shell surrounding hazelnut gelato and inside, a cherry in the center, what a surprise! The shell was reminiscent of that "Magic Turtle" topping that you can get at the grocery store and becomes a hard candy shell in a matter of seconds. The gelato of course, was smooth and very good, I love hazelnut anything so there was no question about that. The cherry in the center sort of caught me aghast... my dining partner thought it was a nice touch, but I thought it kind of did not match the taste palate of the dessert. It was too preserved, too much in its own distilled juices to enhance chocolate and hazelnut. Leave it out next time, please!

Dish VIII: Sweet Plum "Delizia" with Cinnamon "Fior di Latte"

This was a nice plum cake with cinnamon cream (made of mozzarella), basically. Cake was perfectly baked, slightly spongely and not too dense, and served warm with the cold ice cream, a nice contrast at any time. My dining partner had dibs on this.


Blackberry Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream

Instead of two of the same dessert, they opted two give use two different ones to share/mix it up. This was a standard blackberry tart, with a nice buttery crust filled to the brim with sweetened blackberries and served warm alongside vanilla ice cream. Tart was bit overly sweet, but what tart isn't? Pretty basic.

Assorted Italian cookies

Along with nice black coffee, we enjoyed the assorted Italian cookies of vanilla meringues, thin biscottis, and chocolate cookies. At this point, I was in the verge of a food coma, so the coffee was a nice pick-me-up.

Overall, this was a very good meal, although I would never get the tasting menu again, but rather explore the menu deeply for something that I found more imaginative and delicious-sounding. The couple next to us got a lot of seafood dishes, and I would explore that next time, instead. Particularly the octopus dish they both separately got, which I kept eying although I was done with my own meal.

Here's to bucket lists and New York!

110 Waverly Place
T: 212.777.0303

*Thomas Parke D'Invilliers resides in Brooklyn and covets the Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton luggage set featured in 'The Darjeeling Limited.'


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