Tuesday, January 24, 2017

New York Dinners: Briciola, Gato, and Babbo

Our first night in Manhattan, we wander over to Briciola, on 51st Street, recommended by Jennifer as she had a memorable meal there earlier this year.  The place is packed, with a large crowd at the front door, but they hand us a glass of wine at the door and tell us that a large group is finishing up and it should only be a few minutes.  We wait as it it very cold outside the door and it is warm, inviting, smells really good inside, and they are very friendly and welcoming (and, the glasses of wine in our hands doesn't hurt).

Waiting at the bar (crowded)

Soon, we are seated at the family table in the dining room where we squeeze in and share the space, wonderful smells, convivial atmosphere, and great meal.

One table, shared by all

We are hungry, but pause to search the menu for octopus.  Success, they have two dishes!  We start with barbequed octopus, then an appetizer of octopus salad, accompanied bruschetta.   For entrees, we choose branzino and ravioli with spinach and mushroom.  Yum!  And, we eat family style, sharing it all.

Barbequed octopus

Octopus salad and bruschetta

Branzino, ravioli

We are challenged to top our first great dinner with our second dinner.  We've made a reservation at Gato, Chef Bobby Flay's Mediterranean restaurant on Lafayette Street, between Bleeker and Houston, and arrive early, but they seat us and we start again with barbequed octopus.  Yes!

Barbequed octopus

To accompany our meal, we order a trio of 8-layer potatoes, tomato and burrata, and eggplant.  What a great, complementary assortment.

 The trio

For the main act at Gato, we choose the steamed mackeral  in a saffron-tomato broth and charred beef in brown butter with broccoli rabe.


We truly enjoy the meal and make a reservation to come back to Gato for the next night, but Babbo, Mario Batali's flagship restaurant near Washington Square Park still calls.  We've tried a few times and have not been able to get a reservation (it's really small), but we don't give up.  We are walking by in the afternoon and stick our heads in to ask if there is any chance (we were ready to beg, but they give us good advice, which we shouldn't share because we want to go back and get in again.  DO NOT TELL ANYONE THIS SECRET!).  They tell us to come back early, say around 6, definitely before 7, and wait for a seat at the bar.  This sounds feasible, we do it, and have an incredible meal.

Babbo is beautiful.  It is intimate, with a warm, classic Italian ambiance.  The bar area has great seating both at the bar and at tables and booths and also brings an interesting people experience as we strike up conversations with those next to us.  We get the best seat in the house, on the end at the window in the bar.  Don't ask, don't tell!

 Main dining area

Our seat in the bar area (with a Manhattan and prosecco to start)

 Wonderful appetizer

For our entrees, we share papperdelle with wild boar and duck with braised red cabbage and juniper berries, in a vinagrette.  They divide the portions for us in the kitchen and serve the incredible meal. I've seen many of these dishes in Mario Batali's cookbook, Molto Italiano, and it's a fabulous experience to actually have them made his way.  The pictures don't give justice to this incredible meal!  Wow, Mario, please let us come back.

 Papperdelle with wild boar, duck leg and duck breast

 And, for desert, a cheese plate.  It doesn't get much better than that!

 Cheese plate

We have great New York meal experiences, but now, reality strikes, and it's time to go home and cook for ourselves for a while (but we take a little bit of New York home from Eataly, squid ink pasta, to savor the experience and make the transition back home a little softer).

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