To those who recommended Babbo when I inquired last week, thank you - it was everything I expected and more. I can honestly say it was the best Italian food I have ever had.
We walked in on Friday night and got a seat at the bar in 20 minutes (guess the timing was just right; right after we sat down the place was packed with people waiting). We split the following:
*Marinated Fresh Sardines
with Black Radishes and Lobster Oil, $11
*Stinging Nettle Pappardelle
with Wild Boar Ragu, $23
*Brasato ai Porcini
Braised Beef with Porcini and Marsala, $29
All of the above was absolutely amazing, especially the pasta. The wild boar ragu was peppered with bits of carmelized onions and was not very saucy at all; rather, the meat and onions and accompanying spices really stood well on their own against the delicate pasta.
For dessert, we split something that is not on Babbo's online menu, which is a shame because I really want to know what it was called. It was a pine nut tart with buttermilk ice cream, and it was HEAVEN!!! The tart had pine nuts, what tasted like a shortbread crust, and some sort of mildly lemon filling, and the ice cream was perfectly sour like fresh buttermilk. I am dying to know if anyone knows what this dish is called, and if so, can I find the recipe somewhere? What I would give to be able to recreate that dessert. I live in Los Angeles, so going back isn't an option, at least for a while!
Other notable places we ate:
Esperanto in the lower east side - great tapas and wine
Ray's pizza on Mott Street - crispy, perfect pizzas
Schiller's Liquor Bar - overcrowded, overly loud and the food is just okay. My medium-rare steak was perfectly cooked but as tough as rubber, go figure.
Ceci Cela in Nolita for pasteries. Amazingly flakey, buttery almond crossaints and cookies. Went back twice for their pear tart.
Katz's - of course we had to go there. Had bagels and lox the first time, then the Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich. Awesome food, good atmosphere, and great people. Roy the ticketmaster is a find!