This is the sixth post in the New York Thanksgiving series. Other posts in this series include Momofuku Ssam Bar, Momofuku Ma Peche, Gramercy Tavern, Booker and Dax, and Casa Mono.
Babbo was always an elusive restaurant for me.
For those that don't know, Babbo is one of the many restaurants from the B&B (Batali and Bastianich) Hospitality Group. I've always enjoyed their other restaurants, like B&B and Carnevino in Las Vegas, Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles, and Casa Mono in New York.
Babbo was elusive to me because they didn't take reservations for dinner.
Friend shared horror stories with me about how they had to wait over an hour for a seat. Sure, the food was supposedly fabulous, but the idea of waiting for an indefinite amount of time while starving just didn't sit that well with me.
So for years I didn't go.
Not until this past Thanksgiving when I learned that Babbo does take reservations, at least for lunch. Not only that, it was November, which is . . . you guessed it, white truffle season.
Babbo was having a crazy deal: a three course white truffle tasting for only $99. Yes, I know $99 sounds kind of high for a tasting, but you must understand that white truffles are really expensive. There are many places that will charge an additional $40-$80 to a dish just to shave a few grams of white truffles on top of one course. $99 for three courses (including the white truffles) is insanely cheap.
Once I learned that, I pounced on the lunch reservation for two.
Similar to B&B, we started with a free chickpea over crostini appetizer, which always curbs the hunger just enough.
We were given an option to spend an additional $5 to try their nuovo olio, or first harvest olive oil. Although the free olive oil was already delicious, it was fun to try the new harvest, which is grassier, more intense, and also very delicious.
We decided to share one white truffle tasting (three courses) as well an additional pasta dish and an appetizer.
The first course of the tasting was a delicious Duck Egg + Toast & Bacon topped with generous shavings of white truffles from Piedmont, Italy. This timeless, winning combination was as good as it sounds.
The duck egg was barely cooked, which allowed the rich, runny yolk to spill all over the bread. The bacon added a lovely crunch and saltiness. Tiny leaves of arugula added a nice, bitter contrast to the richness of the rest of the dish.
It was phenomenal.
The second course was Agnolotti with Brown Butter topped with tons of shaved white truffles.
The aroma of the white truffles permeated the air and we almost fainted with joy. We loved the fresh pasta, and the sauce was savory and rich. The overall dish was delicious.
The last course the Grilled Veal Breast Tornado with arugula, Parmigiano, and lots of shaved truffles. The veal was very tender and white truffles were (of course) wonderful. The dish itself was not the most exciting dish, but it was still a nice way to eat white truffles. Sometimes you don't just want to overpower the white truffles.
Outside the tasting, we ordered an additional pasta, the Black Spaghetti with Roe. This pasta was made with squid ink pasta, lots of parsley, and possibly bacon or pancetta? It reminded me of a squid ink pasta Mario Batali recipe I had cooked awhile ago. This dish was fantastic. The pasta had excellent texture and the portion size was huge! It was much larger than similar dishes at B&B or Carnevino. I guess Las Vegas is just much pricier.
The Pappardelle Bolognese was also really, really good.
Check out the super wide ribbons (or shall we call them sheets?). The sauce, made from veal, prosciutto, and pancetta, was hearty, deeply flavorful, and seriously satisfying on so many dimensions.
We also ordered Grilled Octopus which came with oven roasted mushrooms. The octopus was nicely charred but certain parts (the thicker parts) were tougher (borderline dry) compared to the thinner parts of octopus, which were perfectly seasoned and cooked.
For dessert we had a delicious Olive Oil Cake with olive oil ice cream and a drizzle of the olio nuovo (new harvest olive oil). Both the cake and ice cream were less "olive-y" and sweeter than others I've tried, though overall the cake was still delicious - warm, crispy, moist, and fantastic with the ice cream. Yum.
It was a lovely, lovely meal. All of the food was excellent, and we really felt like the prices were reasonable. The pasta eishes are much more generous in size and less expensive than similar dishes at B&B and Carnevino. This white truffle tasting is a steal at $99 considering how many courses you get and how much white truffle they give you.
Too bad it's seasonal. Or maybe it's just too bad that white truffles are seasonal.
Anyway, it's really quite alright. I'm sure the food here is good all year round. We loved all of the non-truffle dishes we had, especially the pastas, which were our favorites. There's no denying that Babbo makes great pasta.
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