Dear Grub Street,
I’m trying to make a rez for a two-year-anniversary dinner at Babbo, and the lines are busy. Ought I: Try to make a reservation in person? See if I can shake down anyone for the “special” number? Or enlist the services of a pal who is a concierge? Seriously — it shouldn’t be this hard in January, should it? UGH!
You might think a personal appearance, hat in hand, would make a difference. But none of the reservationists we spoke to thought it would. “It really doesn’t matter either way,” said Bel Thompson, manager at Prune, where it’s also notoriously difficult to get a spot. “If we have the availability, you’ll get a table. Otherwise you won’t.”
And the special number won’t do you much good. Georgette Farkas at Daniel put it this way: “Customers who visit very frequently get to know the maître ’d very well. And it’s altogether possible that he might hand them his business card with his personal number. One thing leads to another; it’s a kind of a dance.” In other words, you have to be big in a restaurant to get the number, and you have to be big to use it.
The concierge is your secret weapon — in some cases. “They need us and we need them,” Farkas says. “We try to help when they need to get someone a table.” The same is not true, unfortunately, at Babbo. “Getting a reservation at Babbo is a completely democratic process,” co-owner Joe Bastianich tells us. “It doesn’t matter who calls; we show no favoritism.” Our best advice would be to try calling when the restaurant first opens its reservation line, at 10 a.m., or late, after 10 p.m. And of course, you could always just walk in and eat at the bar.