Perfect For: Celebrity Sightings Eating At The Bar Fine Dining Impressing Out of Towners Special Occasions
PHOTOS: Noah Devereaux

If you’re familiar with Infatuation restaurant reviews, you may have heard us occasionally refer to something called The Feel Good Factor™. If not, all you need to know is that the idea behind this not-at-all-copyrighted phrase is that some New York restaurants just have that special something that makes you excited to be there, no matter how many times you’ve been before.

You know the feeling - it’s what makes you dig your butt deep into your chair once you’re seated at the table, like you’re about to strap in for a roller coaster ride of pure pleasure and excess calories. It’s the thing that makes you say to yourself, “Yes, I absolutely do want another $200 bottle of Barolo, even though it’s Tuesday and I can’t really afford it.” Why? Because “What Is And What Should Never Be” by Led Zeppelin just came on over the dining room speakers, and between that and this linguine vongole, I’m convinced that I am destined to be the next President, Pope, or disgraced New York senator. Let it rip.

With us? Then you will understand when we tell you that Babbo is where the entire Feel Good Factor™ concept started. Back in 1998 when Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich opened this restaurant, it was unheard of for an establishment worthy of more than three newspaper stars to play “rock music,” or encourage “bar dining.” But that’s exactly what they did, and by now you know it worked, judging by the fact that every serious restaurant in town has since followed suit. A place like Charlie Bird does not exist in this town without Babbo laying the groundwork first. Now it feels obvious to pair old wine and old school hip hop.

So, after nearly 20 years, is Babbo still worth your time and money? Absolutely it is. As a matter of fact, this restaurant has only gotten better with age, like Betty White and Bryan Cranston and your memories from high school. There aren’t many places that serve a special occasion or a drop in at the bar equally well, nor are there many where a guy in a suit comes to scrape your tablecloth even though you basically just ate spaghetti for dinner. Speaking of which, even though there are many excellent things on the menu, the best way to enjoy a meal at Babbo is to go heavy on the pasta. We’d even go so far as to say the $85 pasta tasting is a must, assuming you can handle that many good feelings at once.

We’re betting you can.

Food Rundown

Babbo Salumi

A selection of excellent meats and a little bit of lardo on toast. The way that any meal at Babbo/in life should begin.

Grilled Octopus

One of Babbo’s classic antipasti dishes. This part of the menu should only be covered lightly, allowing for over-ordering on the pastas, but the grilled octopus is the one to get.

Linguine With Clams

Just look at it. You know what to do.

Gnocchi With Braised Oxtail

Rich, meaty, hearty, and excellent. Basically a big plate of f*ck you, February.

Homemade Orecchiette With Sweet Sausage And Rapini

Likely the best version of this classic pasta that you’ll come across in New York City. The little orecchiette are perfect, and the sweetness of the sausage helps balance out the saltiness a bit. This is a must order.

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