June 39th, 2005
Arias From the Kitchen As the Dining Room Rocks
BY FRANK BRUNI
SOME restaurants revel in exquisite subtleties, while others simply go for the gut. Babbo, blessedly, hangs with the latter crowd.
Consider the bavette, and the buttered bread crumbs in particular.
Bavette, which are slender siblings to fettucine, formed the base of a recent pasta special, and they arrived with plenty of good company: immaculately virgin olive oil, red-hot peppers, fresh ramps, pecorino. At most restaurants, and for most chefs, that would suffice.
Not at Babbo, and not for Mario Batali. Our waiter circled back, explaining that the dish languished a step shy of its full potential, beatified but not yet sanctified, an act he swooped to perform. On went the bread crumbs, for more texture, more richness — just plain more.
Mr. Batali, the culinary spirit behind Babbo and an ever-expanding empire of Italian (and, more recently, Mediterranean) restaurants, is an indulgent ruler. Babbo remains his throne, from which he bestows his most lavish favors and intense flavors upon an appropriately grateful dining public.
Braised beef cheeks, crushed squab liver, black truffles: these are the components of just one signature ravioli dish. Goose liver is the filling for another.