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Disappointed in Babbo

California
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324 posts
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Disappointed in Babbo

Had a great week in NY and some memorable meals, but sadly, this wasn't one of them. Not that it wasn't very good - it was - but it wasn't the awesome experience I expected.

I didn't have a problem getting or confirming the reservation - actually, they were very nice about it. You call one month (to the DATE) in advance at 10 a.m. ET and you get a reservation, then you call a few days before to confirm. They give you a different number so you don't get a busy signal. I had requested a table upstairs, which I highly recommend - downstairs was even noisier than upstairs, and I don't like people bumping my table all night. We waited 35 minutes for our 7:30 reservation. They were nice, but no apology. Got a great table upstairs, and ordered wine and prosecco by the glasses. For appetizers, a fresh sardine dish was very good (I love sardines), Italian salumi selection - including tongue - also very good, two others which I forget. Mushroom pasta was very good, wild boar ragu was good but not exceptional, lamb and mint "love letters" ravioli was excellent - that was the best thing we ate all night.

For main course I had the barbecued skirt steak. Again, it was good but not a standout. Grilled pork chop was perfectly cooked and flavorful - one of the best dishes. Also, all the main courses were warm but not hot. It's never a good sign when the servers put the dishes down the second they pick up the previous course. It means the food was waiting for you to finish.

For dessert, saffron panna cotta was smooth and lovely, and one of the chocolate dishes extremely rich and delicious. As I said, it was VERY GOOD. But for $350 for four people(before tip)- and all the hype - I just expected greatness. To my mind, it wasn't better than every meal we had at every neighborhood place in Tuscany, and the atmosphere did nothing to make it a special experience. Our server was all smiles while she was at the table, but only came by once for the obligatory "how is everything", then disappeared. We had to ask for water, pour our own wine, etc., (they give you little carafes when you order by the glass, which was nice - two glasses per carafe for $18-25).

It was a Thursday night, and I doubt that Mario Batali was in the kitchen. BTW - it got warm in there even on a freezing night, so dress in layers.

I'd love to hear any other experiences. Did you think it was worth it?

Queens, New York
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25,046 posts
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1. Re: Disappointed in Babbo

Very interesting. Thanks for the first-hand account! Very useful.

Danbury, Connecticut
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2. Re: Disappointed in Babbo

I haven't been able to get into Babbo in the times I tried....I've pretty much given up. Sorry to hear it was disappointing.

New York, NY
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1,021 posts
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3. Re: Disappointed in Babbo

I haven't been either; it's a place I have on my list to maybe stop by and see if I can eat at the bar when in the neighborhood.

However, one general comment about restaurants in this league: it is easy to be disappointed when expectations are so high and reservations must be made so far in advance (not to mention the fact that by the time the big day comes you have a good chance of having a cold or some other malady).

My ex-spouse and I were once discussing our most memorable meals. Although we had eaten at many top restaurants here and in other places, the meals that first came to mind were generally not those meals where tables were reserved far in advance. Although those meals were generally very good, and sometimes excellent, the ones that really stood out were more often the ones that were satisfying for reasons other than having been cooked by one of the greatest cooks in the world, and the other reasons often had something to do with the company, other circumstances, or maybe just low expectations having been exceeded (like finding a really decent place in the middle of nowhere after a long hard day on the road).

Nine or 10 years ago a friend and I wanted to go to Plumpjack, in San Francisco, when it was a very hot restaurant. We decided not to even try getting a reservation because we knew we couldn't get one on such short notice. However, it was a stormy night and we decided to just stop by on our way to another place and ask if they'd had any cancellations. We did and they had had one cancellation. Not only that, they welcomed us with open arms and gave us complimentary glasses of wine while we waited 5 or so minutes for our table. I can still remember what I had and how good it tasted and how much we both enjoyed the meal and the restaurant's warm, unexpected, welcome.

New York, NY
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4. Re: Disappointed in Babbo

I think the thing about having to ask for water is in all cases inexcusable in a restaurant like that.

Yalesville...
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5. Re: Disappointed in Babbo

We had a similar experience in March. W

arm, not hot food, having to ask for water at prices that would make a rich man shudder.

This property is terribly overpriced, with food of pedestrian quality.

Service is inconsistent, as you mentioned, your entree is there instantly after your apps, wrong.

We were there on a night that Mr Batali was in residence, this guy is a pompous, arrogant buffoon. And let me tell you why; one of our party mentioned something about the poor service and Batali's comment

'that's Babbo', hardly the response that should have been made.

Plus he was prancing around like we should be congratulating him on his restaurant, food etc.

We all decided we'd never return - I myself find that inexpensive Italian bistros around NYC are a better choice for authentic, regional dishes.

So, avoid Babbo unless you want to pay dearly for unremarkable food and major insults.

West Palm Beach...
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6. Re: Disappointed in Babbo

I long ago gave up trying to make a reservation. What should be a simple task is more of a challenge now, and I'm not up to it. Too many options for a pleasant dinner.

Sorry, Mario.

New York City, New...
Destination Expert
for New York City
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98,974 posts
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7. Re: Disappointed in Babbo

I've never been interested in going and this thread confirms my feelings. I'm not into celebrity chefs. When spending that sort of money, the PATRONS should be treated like celebrities.

West Palm Beach...
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8. Re: Disappointed in Babbo

Well said!

New York, NY
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9. Re: Disappointed in Babbo

Agree, Whiz, well said, and that is why I recommend the River Cafe all the time...you are indeed treated like a celebrity, it is amazing.

You can also find better service at your local places, for sure, and they really do appreciate the business.

Yalesville...
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10. Re: Disappointed in Babbo

Whiz, you are absolutely on the mark. Paying over $400.00 for a meal which at those prices I'd classify as swill, sorry Mario, but I tell it like it is!!

And about being treated like a king, how about just a human being, not being looked down the nose at and just there to interrupt the story of your last date!!!

Yep, that's how I felt when I arrived, the waitress was so engrossed in her tale spinning we came second.

Lesson learned, it's the neighborhood places for me, consistent, friendly and real food, not some concoction the chef is experimenting with.