My wife and I did our semiannual weekend in the city, returning yesterday. We attempt to tell each other that we enjoy the hustle and cosmopolitan quality of NY, but we really go to eat.
Went to L'impero Saaturday evening and found it a little etherial and precious. The food and service was ok, but after reading the Times' report we were less than impressed.
Sunday lunch at Otto was also less than we expected and feel that the place has not hit its stride yet. I think the pizza will be much better when they learn to adjust toppings better to maintain some moisture. The lardo also was not what I have had in Italy. We expected a virtual pig fat glaze and got something too close to bacon. The testa, however, was memorable.
Dinner at Babbo was altogether another story. What an experience! The spaces, the commotion, the smiling staff, the wine, the food! Lupa in spades! And to top it off, the man, himself, sipping of the grape at the bar when we left at 11:30.
I used to enjoy Mario's FoodTV shows when they were on at a reasonable time and respect his knowledge and understanding of the Italian kitchen and table. It seems to me that his success derives a great deal from the consistently welcoming atmosphere of his establishments. One feels casually comfortable upon entering and the upbeat staff heightens ones feeling of belonging. There now, to us, is an expectancy of a good time when we make the call for a reservation. We'll be back in April.