BABBO was fabbo, many thanks to all your tips past and present.
i was delighted with my three choices, the lamb's tongue vinagrette appetizer, beef cheeks ravioli primi and roasted rabbit secondi. of these, the primi really stood out. very tender pasta and the kind of unique and shocking yet complimentary beef taste.
my spouse had pig's feet milanese appetizer and a special lasagna for her main. the app was pounded, breaded and fried to her suprise, but we all dug into it and i thought it was great if only for a few bites. she felt the lasgana was melt in your mouth good and i liked the rest of it just as well the next day from the doggie bag!
our friends had sardines, goose liver ravioli, corn stuffed pancetta and duck. they loved it all. of course we all shared bites of everything and i thought their dishes were real tasty too, especially the pancetta.
i asked for the off the menu avignonesi merlot 1997, per a chowhound rec from doc below and that immediately brought out the friendly sommelier. they were out of the 97 so he brought me the 98 and he seemed impressed with us for that so thanks doc. it had a full warm appeal is best i can describe it as i am not very familiar with italian wines. this would go well with anything i'd say. unfortunately, i think i 'lost' him later when i ordered an inexpensive sardinian wine for our second bottle.
desserts were coffees, an assortment of house made sorbets, and peach panna cotta. the sorbets were all so good, but my favorite was kiwi. the grape tasted just like grape jelly.
our waiter was functional and had a rather surly look at times i am told, but i never notice these things. the seating is very tight downstairs and is problematic. however, it appears all is equal and there is no 'siberia' seating. and fwiw, no mario was not in the house. total cost? $392.95 w/o tip. verdict? get there asap and go often.