Oh, Babbo. Boy did you come through for two hungry girls.
There’s not a single photo of the food, but I could never forget that duck confit–the one that knocked the duck confit of all my favorite French restaurants down a notch (sorry)–or the spaghetti with clams, which is the only way I ever again wish to eat spaghetti with clams. Thank you to the dedicated soul who had to hover over that pot to achieve such perfectly cooked pasta.
And thank you to the maitre’d with a twinkle in his eye who mysteriously found a table for us at 7 p.m. on a Saturday night, with no reservation. And to the waiter who had me laughing out of my chair all night long. What started out looking like some serious business–scoring a table at a restaurant where reservations have eluded me for years–turned out to be one of the funniest–and most fun–dinners I’ve had.
After whining helplessly into the restaurant’s reservation line time after time, even once getting wait listed–but never getting that magical call back–I’d decided to step things up a bit. With one of my bestest and most determined friends, I cabbed down to the village early. Around 6 p.m. we were told we (maybe) had a crack at a table–say, in an hour and half. Fine, we said. Time to drink some wine.
So we cozied up to the bar, which was already full, and watched as we were quickly sealed in by other waiting parties. We sat patiently sipping from our ponies of Prosecco and Montepulciano, totally unaware that miracles were at work. Until there was a tap on my shoulder about 20 minutes later, and the sky opened with divine light, as we were told that a party had just cancelled. Did we want their table at 7:00?
Of course we did, and the rest is burned into my memory forever. A sublime bottle of Barbara, a bustling upstairs room, a couple across from us sipping Cosmopolitans on their (totally awkward) first date. And then the clams, duck, short ribs and goat cheese cake overcome me in a cloud of total bliss. Or maybe it was the port and Armagnac that overcame me.
Regardless, it was all clearly meant to be. And I say that because while the food lived up to its reputation–the “rustic” description you typically hear sells it short–it was the kindness of the service that most surprised me, and the obvious enjoyment of everyone waiting on us that most lifted my spirits that night. While I love a somber hotel bar swathed in grey after work–when I’m tired, or frustrated after a long day–wonderful, exciting food deserves a vibrant, energizing atmosphere. On that, Babbo and its charming staff delivered entirely.