Monday, February 26, 2007

Top ten restaurants: Babbo

When I lived in New York, I remember the GM of my restaurant talking about how when she got off of work she would shoot down to the West Village and go grab dinner at the bar at Babbo with her fabulous litany of friends. Incredibly chic, stylish, and fierce about work (not to mention a complete coke addict, but aren't they all?), this woman knew the restaurant scene inside and out, and after hearing her describe Babbo, I determined that it was the kind of place that I would love. I had to go at some point.

Life happened. Even though I'd been to two of his others, I just never quite got around to Mario Batali's most famous restaurant. It was always in the back of my mind, though, how much I wanted to go there. So when my mother and I started planning a trip to New York for December, 2006, I knew that this would be the perfect time to go. We booked our table for four a month in advance, and invited two of my favorite people in the world to join us - my friends Blake and Trey.

Tucked away on one of those quaint side streets in the West Village, the exterior of Babbo is unassuming to the point of being almost hard to find. When we walked in at 8:00 on a Sunday night, the bar area was so crowded we could hardly navigate our way to the hostess stand. The atmosphere was a perfect blend of warm and trendy, and while you immediately felt that you were in a very special place, there was no cause to be intimidated by your surroundings. Perfecto.

The four of us settled in and the wine list was promptly shoved in my direction by everyone at the table. After giving me just a few minutes to peruse, the wine steward confidently, but not intrusively, approached and asked if I had any questions. I had been scanning the Barberas, and asked if he had one to recommend in the price range of the number that I gestured to on the page. His eyes lit up - not because my price range was extravagant, but because he is good at his job and excited about all of his wines - and he named a new bottle on the list. When the wine came it was beautifully served and blew us all away. I cannot stress enough how ridiculously on-point I considered this aspect of the meal. In my mind, the sommelier should be there to assist and excite, not to intimidate. Bravo.

I don't remember everything we ate. Three courses each - an appetizer, pasta dish, and dessert. I could probably figure it out if I looked at the menu on the website, but that's ok. I don't need that sort of obsessive recollection, or a play-by-play of every bite. I'd rather remember the aura, the laughter that we four shared, whilst frequently moaning at how fabulous everything tasted. I'd rather remember random little details of service that made the meal truly unforgettable, like the constantly refilled basket of fresh bread, and the way that they brought out four different kinds of grated cheese with the pasta, and only offered each of us the one that was specifically intended to compliment with the dish in front of us. I'd rather remember how our forks did not even pretend to stay on our own plates, and how we liberally shared everything around, in the way that only people who fell complete ease and happiness with their company can.

This being said, there is one detail that will never get hazy in my mind - the exact look on Trey's face when halfway through the meal he sat up very straight for a second, looked to his right severely and only with his eyes for a moment, and then leaned forward to us.

"Um, guys," he mumbled/whispered out of the side of his mouth, "I think Gwyneth Paltrow is sitting over there."

After several gasps of excitement, we all did our best to look without staring and confirmed that, indeed, we seemed to be dining with an Oscar winner and her rock star husband a mere ten feet away. Priceless. And certainly my most impressive celeb-sighting to date. (By the way - she was luminous.)

So that's it. We left with our bellies stuffed, lots of laughs under our belt, my craving for the restaurant satiated, and great memories. Memories of great wine, conversation, and much happiness tucked away in the West Village. Thanks, Mario.

3 Comments:

Blogger Eggnoger said...

Is Macados going to be on the list? Dietrick Dining Hall?

12:16 AM  
Blogger Rees26 said...

Hmmm... thanks for the suggestion. Stay tuned for the Bogen's installment...

11:32 PM  
Blogger Trey said...

you forgot that it was the day she was in the news for dissing America.

8:27 AM  

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