My parents have never missed a Christmas in NYC and it just so happens that my birthday is around that time of year. Therefore, I get to combine the birthday celebrations with our annual NYC Christmas dinner. For this year’s dinner, we chose Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, Mario Batali’s restaurant.
Let me warn you, reservations are a must and they must be made 1 month in advance. To tell you the truth, 1 month in advance to the day can even go fast. It is an arduous process to get the reservation including calling and calling and calling just to get through to the restaurant phone menu, which then leads you to press a number for the actual reservation line. It is then that you must wait, yet again, until an actual ‘reservationist’ comes on the line. I asked about days 1 month in advance and was told that at 10:30am (reservation lines open at 10am), all my choices were taken. In the end, I decided upon a Monday at 5:30pm.
We were amongst the first to arrive for the dinner seating at 5:30. I was instantly happy once I saw the beautiful and festive golden themed Christmas tree in the center of the room. The restaurant was lively with old Holiday music — and while the city isn’t at it’s best this Holiday season, Babbo made me feel at home and warm with the Holiday spirit.
Once seated, we were told the specials, one of which was an 8-day-old olive oil from Italy. We chose to try it along with some thick bread for dipping. The olive oil was incredible — fruity and earthy without even a hint of bitter. It was as fresh as you can get aside from pouring it off on the farm.
For the rest of the meal, we all went with three picks. I, being an avid beet fan started with the beet tartare, which was so earthy and flavorful. The beets were roasted to perfection and served with Ricota Salata. Joel chose a lighter option of an arugula salad with fresh Parmigiano Reggiano.
For the second course we choose everything from Mint love letters — lovely pasta pockets encasing mint and lamb sausage, to Sardines — big, light and flavorful served with caramelized fennel, to Pumpkin “Lune” — delicate and perfectly cooked pasta rounds encasing a soft pumpkin filling. An interesting choice for that course was that of the Black Spaghetti — colored with squid ink and served with fragrant rock shrimp and spicy green chillies, it was one of our favorites.
For our final course, we all took a different road. My father chose the amazing Chianti Stained Pappardelle with Wild Boar Ragu. Not something I would have chosen (wild boar) but after tasting it, I recommend that everyone try it. The boar was so fragrant and the dish hinted of lavender. My mother went with the Brasato Al Barolo — beautifully braised beef with mushrooms. It somewhat reminded me of my mother’s pot roast in that it was delicate and pulled apart very easily (only, nothing REALLY compares to her pot roast).
Joel and I chose very different things — I ordred the Grilled Lamb Chops ‘Scottadita” served with a grilled red onion, mint and a lemon yogurt. It was cooked just right and tasted of the grill. The mint and lemon yogurt were perfect and typical compliments to the lamb. Joel went with the Spicy 2-Minute Calamari. Served in a bowl full of a very spicy tomato broth, it didn’t disappoint.
Babbo’s menu is extensive included two tasting menu’s including one of which is made up entirely of pasta(!). The atmosphere was great: I felt like I was at home for the Holidays with an hearty Italian meal, warm enough to cut through the bitter cold temperatures of NYC winters.