Much has been written about the service at Babbo on these boards. So much that , as eager I was to finally experience haute Mario, I was a little wary going into it. Here's what happened.
We were four and we wanted the tasting menu. One in our group has a medical condition known as gluten enteropathy (sp?) whereby she cannot digest gluten. So no pasta or bread at all. We knew this could might pose a challenge, especially because they make a point of saying that everyone has to get the tasting menu. I used to work in high end restaurants and I know why this is. It's a matter of pacing and, especially at a place like Babbo where they are slammed all the time, it makes sense. Nonetheless, we decided to see if they would accomodate my friend's diet by constructing a different tasting menu since there was a lot she could eat from the antipasti and secondi menus. Needless to say, the waiter, sporting a look of tremendous annoyance, got super defensive right off the bat. He told us that those are the rules, no exceptions and that if we didn't like his answer we could talk to a manager but that he would only tell us the same thing. Yes, we said, we would like to talk to a manager. So the manager comes over and very rationally explains why the kitchen can't handle special tasting menus, but that if we liked we could compose our own series of dishes by picking from the a la carte and tasting menus and sharing and splitting different courses. So that's what we did. He was understanding and helpful and knowledgeable.
The way I saw it it's all about the approach, the willingness to find a solution, and the ability to make your customers feel welcome. So, no we didn't get "our way" and no, the customer isn't always right.Though we started off on a bad note, the manager turned the experience around and the meal was outstanding. We got to choose the dished we were most drawn to and the kitchen was not put out. But it is shocking to me that a restaurant of such high caliber with a chef who has such a public face continues to piss of so many of it's customers by way of shoddy service. It's a good thing the kitchen knows what it's doing.
In case anyone wants menu recs, there are some terrific late summer dishes right now. Of note: squid ink tagliatelle with grilled corn, garlic chives and pecorino - the single most delicious corn i have ever had; a caprese salad with borrata and the most perfect tomatoes imaginable; and, of course, the lamb's tongue salad. (And we had great & affordable wines - a basilicata for $30 was smooth and juicy and complex).