For the Pasta and Music Alone, Worth the 10-Straight Busy Signals
While in New York recently I had the opportunity to dine at Mario Batali's flagship eatery the revered Babbo Ristorante, which is by many accounts the toughest reservation in town. That would explain my purse-designer sister's glee at managing a Monday night same-day reservation (albeit after a mild onset of blackberry carpal tunnel from having to call 11 or 12 times to get through to the reservationist). For resident New Yorkers, where everything is crowded virtually all the time, gaining access to one of the coveted "crowded places" has an understandable cache attached to it. And despite, or perhaps as a result of, having just returned from a trip to Europe where I'd eaten in some of the best restaurants in the world, I was excited as well. Part of my enthusiasm came from having had great meals in several of Batali's other restaurants (Lupa & Esca). Also I thoroughly enjoyed Bill Buford's book Heat which documents in great detail life in the Babbo kitchen and the huge personality that is Mario Batali. Mainly though it was Babbo's reputation for serving delicious, creative, and authentic contemporary Italian food in an unfussy setting that had me hyped.
The Babbo experience did not disappoint. Their winelist is among the best Italian lists I've ever seen (the Franz Haas 'Manna' from Trentino-Alto Adige was a fun and memorable wine) and the food was exciting, yet familiar. We had some salumi made by Batali's father who has a salami shop in Seattle (when thinking about great salami who thinks the Pacific Northwest?), great lamb's tongue with morels (it tastes like full-flavored beef brisket) a bunch of different homemade pastas and assorted carne, as well as a Brachetto d'Acqui with some cheese for dessert.
In it's essence Babbo is a great neighborhood restaurant that no one in the neighborhood can get into (my sister lives a couple blocks away). I will remember the surreal environment of our dinner for a long time: elderly Italian couple to our left looking slightly confused, director Mike Nichols (The Graduate) to our right, Grateful Dead playing on the stereo as if we were at The Blue Bird in Leelanau, Michigan.
In the spirit of our "Pasta Fest", here's one of my pasta dough recipes. I use different doughs for different types of pasta, but this version is great for any stuffed pasta or an egg rich pasta (ie. tagliatelle).
Flour 2 ½ Cups
Semolina Flour 2 ½ Cups
Eggs, Room Temp 8
Olive Oil, Extra Virgin 1 Teaspoon
Water ¼ Cup, or as needed
In a food processor pulse flour and semolina to combine. Whisk together eggs and olive oil. With the machine running, pour the egg mixture through the feed tube and add just enough water for the dough to come together into a mass. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5 – 10 minutes, until smooth and resilient. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow dough to relax before proceeding.