Posts Tagged With: Italian West Village

Babbo – The Taj Mahal of NYC Italian

Babbo Black SpaghettiTo fully appreciate Babbo, one should arrive 15 minutes early.  Stand outside, check out the menu listed that includes today’s specials, and pretend that you are waiting for someone.  But more importantly, check out the people arriving.  There will be the boring arrivals – the locals and those who have eaten at Babbo before.  And then there are those with that special sparkle in their eyes.  The same sparkle you get when you finally reach Machu Picchu.  I saw a grandma with her well dressed family, pausing in front of the sign, exhale a huge sigh, followed by a smile (unless it was gas).  I watched a family of four taking their time, taking it all in, with a particularly thrilled dad who asked me to take a picture of the happy with family.  I happily obliged, and charged them $20 (the Times Square Elmo going rate at the moment).  The only time I’ve seen this type of foodie pilgrimage in NYC was the last time I waited for a slice at Di Fara.  There’s always something special about visiting a place that means so much more to other visitors.  Much like visiting the great churches of Europe, or the Taj Mahal

Babbo Ristorante is Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich first out of many ventures, opened in 1998.  One of the most celebrated Italian restaurants in NYC history, still going very strong even with an ageless menu.  Not many realize that Batali’s first was not Babbo, but a partnership at Pó, also in West Village, 5 years earlier.  Outside Babbo looks like just another neighborhood Trattoria, oddly situated on a quiet residential part of Waverly Place (may mean something to the 16 and under, unless they are like my kids who’ve been to Taim Falafel too many times).  Talking about Waverly Place kids, there were surprisingly quite a few on this particular night, some even arriving with their American Doll lookalikes.  The irony here comes after a tweet the other day where someone asked Batali if he would be willing to open a predominately kid friendly establishment.  In which he replied, kids are more than welcomed in any of his establishments already, and that he wouldnt want to alienate adults.  After all, we are talking about Italian, the granddaddy of kid friendly cuisine.Babbo

The transformation from Babbo outside to inside, is like that of a Minetta Tavern, a time machine.  Buzzy atmosphere, full bar, best of Batali ipod blasting in the background, and a VERY full staff.  Some looked busy, while some could have easily gone on a late afternoon siesta, even with the full house.  This is to me the one major difference between eating in the US and Italy.  The traffic around you is undeniable, which is why louder than usual music is required sometimes.  Not so much a complaint, but an observation.  When you score the friendliest waiter in the city of New York as we did on this night, complaints become observations.  On to the food….

Grilled Octopus with “Borlotti Marinati” and Spicy Limoncello Vinaigrette – Although it was somewhat unevenly cooked the last time, it was still good enough to not share one between four octopus loving freaks.  “Two Octopuses please”.  This time perfectly cooked, with a nice snap, and tenderness all around.  The tangy Vinaigrette, and the Borloti, aka Cranberry, aka Pinto and Cannellini had a baby beans, just add to the joy.Babbo Octopus

Pig Foot “Milanese” with Rice Beans and Arugula – Once in a while, not too often, I bump into one of those “I dont get it” dishes.  Its a popular staple on the menu, but I just dont get it.  It tasted like a potato latke gone wild.  The one that Jewish mothers throw out because it didnt come out as the other potato latkes.  Stringy, gelatiny, fried, and very flat cutlet, with a surprisingly flat flavor profile.  The only miss of the night.Babbo Pigs foot

Beef Cheek Ravioli with Crushed Squab Liver and Black Truffles – Great dish, and by far Mrs Ziggy’s fave.  If you feel any affection toward chicken liver this dish is especially for you.  Here its much about the sauce making its best Marsala interpretation, but with Squab liver mixed in with mushrooms, adding more richness to the buttery beef cheeks pureed inside the triangular ravioliBabbo Beef Cheek Ravioli

Black Spaghetti with Rock Shrimp, Spicy Salami Calabrese and Green Chilies (top)- Another menu staple that I’ve had before.  Its a fairly dry pasta, but packed with flavor and txture.  The squid ink Spaghetti has that nice sweet heaviness to it, with that crunchy salami, shrimp, and occasional garlic, like the gift that keeps on giving.  This is one of those dishes that makes you Google recipes when you get home.

Mint Love Letters with Spicy Lamb Sausage – Like a love letter from the Mario to Ziggy.  “Dear Ziggy, in honor of your unconditional support and love for Eataly, Lupa, Po, and other establishments I’ve been involved with over the years, I’m sending you these refreshing, delectable ravioli filled with peas, mint, and cheese, topped with spicy sausage tomato ragu.  As you can see, the mint and the sausage, compliment nicely, and dont overwhelm… unlike your wallet by Eataly’s Venchi chocolates.  Seriously, I know you are obsessed with Piedmont chocolates, but look at you.  Time to give it a rest.  And please please shave next time you come to Babbo.  Its a Ristorante, not a trattoria so show some respect.  Idiot!  Love, Mario”Babbo Mint Love Letters

Barbecued Skirt Steak with Endive “alla Piastra” and Salsa Verde – Just a perfectly cooked, and marinated Skirt, sliced and arranged Jenga style, on top of an ultra thick salsa verde.  A very respectable meat dishBabbo Skirt Steak

Rabbit with Honey-Glazed Baby Carrots, Peas and Salsa Verde – I normally dont have high expectations from Secondis in Italian, no matter where I go as they rarely satisfy as much as the primis and the rest of the menu.  But here they are given proper treatment, starting with this sweet, flavor packed rabbitBabbo Rabbit

Dessert – A fine chocolate cake, and a finer Semifreddo.  Another great meal at Babbo, a Z-List staple for hopefully many years to come

110 Waverly Pl
Recommended Dishes: Octopus, Mint Love Letters, Beef Cheek Ravioli, Black Spaghetti, Skirt, Rabbit, Semifreddo

Babbo Chocolate Cake Babbo Semifredo


Categories: New York City, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Crispo – Eat Drink Man Woman

Crispo Carbonara

Crispo Carbonara

One food related task that I dont particularly enjoy much is picking a place for a family function.  Normally what I have to deal with is a large group, not enough time, a place we havent been, not too adventurous Italian.  Good luck, you have 24 hours.  Normally I enjoy picking restaurants but this can be as much fun as a vasectomy consultation (ok, last vasectomy joke this week I promise.  Its not even that funny if you ask me).  But somehow, by pure miracle, perhaps with the help of Whole Foods cereal I was having that morning, I came up with the perfect spot.  No problem reserving a table since the place has been around for a while, perfect menu for this crowd, and a table that is… let me put it this way… If Don Corleone ever needed a table to entertain 20 of his immediate family in NYC, that is the table he would get.  Located in the Crispo garden, partly covered which was perfect for a cool summer night, this table set the tone to a beautiful dinner.

Crispo yardCrispo is one of those spots I’ve known for years but somehow never made it.  The menu featured classics from the entire nation of Italia, a few neighboring countries (neighboring to Italy, not talking about Canada), and some food trucks.  Without knowing the quality of any of these ingredients I can see an Italian Slow Food student throw up a little when looking at the menu.  Its almost as if they kept adding items without ever removing anything.  This is more of an observation than a complaint however.  Americans in general love big menus.  I don’t particularly care for them, but I can bare it, especially with a large group.

The result was a scene from Eat Drink Man Woman, something Anthony Bourdain and I share in common – our favorite food movie.  Great food, a good time with the family, helped by a great wine list

Crispo godAs usual we shared a bunch of starters.  A fine Prosciutto, figs, parmigiano platter from the Prosciutto section of the menu.  Risotto Balls were especially popular, and so was one of the best Caponatas I’ve had in NYC.  Normally, its a disappointing bland mess, but that wasn’t the case here.  Mixed olives – I wouldn’t know.  They were ordered by someone who’s rapper name would be “Dame Never Shares A lot.”  Stuffed hot Cherry Peppers was the only early regret.  Reminded me and everyone else on the table why I don’t care so much for Cherry peppers, and their taste buds altering ways.  Bad idea in particular to have them right before the switch to a young but feisty 2010 Renato Ratti Barolo.  The Caprese Salad here features the sweetest beefiest tomatoes you can possibly imagine in a Caprese salad, with Mozzarella as rich and thick as the accent of a young Vito Corleone.  Note:  This was one of 24 Insalatas one the menu.  To further explain my “Slow Food” comment, at Da Roberto in Montisi in Tuscany, there is one salad on the menu on any given day.

Crispo Prosciutto, Figs & Parmigiano

Only 14 pastas on the menu.  The Carbonara here is one of the specialties.  It features the 3 “P” Pancetta, Smoked Pancetta & Prosciutto with an egg that you need to mix in on your own.  It worked overall, quite enjoyable actually, but not as addictive as the more traditional one you can find in Lupa or Maialino.  The Black Truffle Ricotta Ravioli certainly had its share of truffle aroma and flavor, unlike so many dishes out there with the word “truffle” in it.  And just when you think you’ve eaten all the pasta shapes out there there’s a Trofie, Twisty, thin, chewy little noodles, a specialty of Genoa.  This one featured more truffle juice (yes please), with peas and prosciutto.  By the way, did you hear the horn?  Alba white truffles season is upon us, and supplies are looking good so far.  Then there was the good and basic Mike Tyson’s favorite, Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe & Fennel Sausage, and a Shrimp Spaghetti Fra Diavola consumed quickly by Dame Never Shares A lot

Crispo Pork chop

To find a memorable Secondi these days can be as tough as pronouncing Secondi correctly.  One glance at the Pork Shank and two things come to mind.. Huge and dry.  Nope!  huge and juicy with sweet pleasant tones was the result, and enough of it to go around.

The desserts here were quite good.  Highlighted by the Italian Beignets, Zeppole with Chocolate SauceTorta Cioccolata was on the dry side even for the kids.  Panna Cotta with Berries and Biscotti di Mais  was surprisingly delicate for a dry Panna Cotta.  Tiramisu as a cake, not in a cup was a delight to the Dame.  And a duo of Crème Brûlée & Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding was satisfying.  Recommend!

240 W 14th
Recommended Dishes: Prosciutto, Risotto Balls, Caprese Salad, Ricotta Ravioli, Trofie, Carbonara, Pork Shank, Zeppole, Panna Cotta

Crispo CapreseCrispo Barolo



Crispo Orecchiette



Crispo Panna cotta crispo Crème Brûlée Pudding CrispoZeppole Crispo



Categories: New York City, West Village | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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