Babbo Tops Zagat Italian List, Followed by RelicsWe’re not surprised that Babbo is the city’s top Italian restaurant, according to Zagat’s new America’s 1,000 Top Italian Restaurants book — its popularity alone is enough, in Zagat-land, to ensure yearly dominance. And in fact, Babbo is a wonderful restaurant, four stars by our lights, and justly beloved. But if you had any doubt how unreliable the Zagat surveyors are, just check out number two: Village relic Il Mulino! Now, don’t get us wrong: Il Mulino is a fine restaurant and uses very expensive ingredients to good effect. The tuxedoed wait staff are as servile as ever. But it should be the second-most-popular Italian restaurant of 1958. Haven’t the matrons of Secaucus ever heard of A Voce? Or
Produce Carts Approved for Low-Income Areas; Calling a Clone a CloneThe City Council passed a watered-down version of Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to place produce carts in low-income neighborhoods. The new plan cuts the total number down to 1,000 from 1,500 and reduces the number of targeted precincts from 43 to 34. [NYP]
The Post hit two midtown Starbucks yesterday and found that, while Tuesday night’s three-hour training session for baristas may not have instilled the ability to make perfect drinks, they will remake it as many times as you force them to. [NYP]
A City Council member introduced legislation yesterday that would require meat from cloned animals to be labeled as such. [Metro NY]
A Dovetail Spy Scandal; Gordo Ruins New Jersey Valentine’s DayA Food & Wine contributing editor has been working as a hostess at Dovetail, the new three-star restaurant, for the past two months. Part of her arrangement with chef John Fraser? To spot food writers and alert the kitchen, but apparently she was no help in pointing out Frank Bruni. [Mouthing Off/Food & Wine]
Shake Shack and Burger Joint will face off tonight at the South Beach Food & Wine Festival for the title of champion in the “Burger Bash.” [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
Landmarc at the Time Warner Center is throwing an Oscar party of sorts this Sunday, featuring a five-course tasting menu and two flat-screen TVs in the dining room. [Zagat]
Batali Calls Out Bloggers, Gordon Ramsay
Gawker unearths a choice quote from Guardian critic Jay Rayner’s forthcoming book The Man Who Ate the World. Excoriating bloggers, Mario Batali tells Rayner:
“It’s just people who hate things. But you know what? If they don’t like my beef cheek ravioli and the rock-and-roll we play on the sound system at Babbo, they can suck my dick. I don’t care.”
Except for the fellatio part, this pretty much jives with what he has told us in the past. Upon reading the book, we found it even more interesting that Batali, immediately before criticizing blogger/haters, decided to call out Gordon Ramsay.
Jody Williams’s Wine Bar Serving in the West VillageGreenwich Village: Send off truffle fever with a wine-sodden bang at Babbo’s December 3 Vintage series, which includes a white-truffle tasting menu with wine pairings discussed by Peter Jamros. [Grub Street]
Hell’s Kitchen: Kyotofu is hosting a seven-course dinner-and-dessert sake pairing tonight at 7 p.m. [Grub Street]
Midtown West: The Frederick’s space on West 58th Street will be transformed into Jour et Nuit, a French-American bistro offering, you guessed it, brasserie classics like croque monsieurs and moules frites. [Restaurant Girl]
Soho: Fiamma is a little too liberal with its “Napkins of Shame,” which according to Bruni are a “bit of patchwork that makes the table look clean again” to the embarrassment of the messy diner. The critic was subjected to one himself while on a date. [Diner’s Journal/NYT] The Vosges bacon-chocolate bar is accused of not reaching its potential and tasting “more like the barnyard than the pig and more like the rubber tree than the cocoa pod.” [Chop Talk/Epicurious]
West Village: Jody Williams is previewing her new enoteca and salumeria Gottino at Greenwich Avenue near Perry Street. [Eater] The chef’s main stage, Morandi, is also serving a Thanksgiving dinner of rosemary roasted turkey with fennel and bruschetta stuffing. Those looking for turkey alternatives can arrive early for regular breakfast. [Grub Street]
Goldfarb Will Make Your Saturday; 1OAK Might Open SomedaySome desserts you’ll be able to try when Will Goldfarb starts serving at the new Dessert Studio at Michel Cluizel this Saturday include “white chocolate gelato drizzled with olive oil; Indonesian vanilla ice cream with American caviar; and chocolate-hazelnut cake with apricots and brown sugar ice.” Okay, we need to take a cold shower. [NYT]
Related: Cluizel, Goldfarb to Join Forces in Dessert Pact
1OAK really is close to opening, maybe two or three weeks according to one random construction worker — or is that four to six weeks? [Imbible/Citysearch]
Related: Until 1OAK Opens, Look for Richie Akiva at Scores
New French wine bar Solex is shaping up to be in competition with Momofuku 2.0 for late-night chef hangout. [Mouthing Off/Food&Wine]
Back of the House
Michelin’s Madness Drives Ed Levine (and Us) Up a WallEd Levine raises some points about Michelin today in what will no doubt be the first of many arguments and think pieces on the subject. There won’t be much debate, though, on the larger question about Michelin: Nearly everybody we know agrees that the book sucks. Unlike its French original, whose authority was well earned and absolute, and based on an army of incorruptible gourmands, the New York book seems more like the product of two Short Hills foodies passing the time on a red-eye airline flight. We haven’t seen the book itself, so we can’t say if the prose will be as insipid and amateurish as last year’s, which was straight from the South Bend Pennysaver, but we think we might get why Michelin is so weirdly arbitrary, a “combination of the Edsel and the Yugo” in Levine’s words.
Gastropub Trend Winds South, Touching Down in Orlando Soon
Orlando is a swell place to travel (preferably in a cherry-red Corvette) if you’re craving hash browns all-the-way at Waffle House, but what about Floridians who want a taste of the big city? Until recently, a restaurant called Babbo (unrelated) was one of their only options, but now it’s being renamed Nonna! (Too confusing?) Don’t worry — this fall comes The Ravenous Pig: An American Gastropub, opened by a student at New York’s own Culinary Institute of America (or so the place’s MySpace page seems to indicate). Could this be the most egregious Spotted Pig knockoff since Chodorow’s ill-fated Spotted Dick? Either way, the Orlando Weekly hilariously assures: “If ‘gastropub’ sounds unappetizing, never fear. It just means upscale food served in a relaxed, pub-like setting.” And with that, Orlando’s culinary innocence is dead.
What’s Cooking [Orlando Weekly]
Profile: The Ravenous Pig [MySpace]
Related: The Pig and the Pudding [NYM]
More Meatopia: Our Readers Get All Old Testament
Meatopia, the Woodstock of edible animals, has captured the imagination of Grub Street readers. Suggestions for next year’s theme have flooded in, nearly overwhelming both the Grub Street in-box and our wildest expectations. Send your idea to email@example.com by 6 p.m., and we might see you tomorrow. Among the contenders:
Alias’ New Chef Finally Arrives — From UzbekistanMore than a few people thought Alias might give up the ghost when chef Shane Coffey left last year. But the place has a way of staying in business, and new chef Mark Barrett seems to have stabilized it. (Barrett was hired in April but has only been cooking in the place for three weeks.) The menu at Alias has a split personality: On the one side is the pub grub that has helped keep the place in business these many months, all burgers, nachos, and the like; on the other is Barrett’s upscale, seasonal Italian food, reflective of the work he did at Babbo. (Readers of Bill Buford’s Heat will remember him from the book, in which he made a memorable clam sauce for the staff.) Why the long delay? Barrett was away in Uzbekistan, of all places, where he ate “tons of plov [pilaf] and sashlik [kebabs], some horse meat, and even dog.”
Tables Available at San Domenico; A Voce Mostly BookedIt’s 4 p.m., and that means it’s time to play Two for Eight. We just asked ten restaurants the best time they can squeeze a couple in for dinner; you need only make your chosen reservation. (As always, we make the calls but don’t guarantee the results.) Today: Gourmet Italian.
Batali and Bourdain Argue Over Adam Platt, the Egg Thief, and Much More
Marco Pierre White showed up at Borders last night for a book signing with two friends in tow: Mario Batali and Tony Bourdain. We sat down with the latter two for a few minutes before the event and picked their brains. In true style, Mario sent one of the store’s managers out for a bottle of vodka and some tonic at the start, but as the harried fellow didn’t arrive until the end, this discussion was conducted in cold sobriety.
Q. Where Does Mario Batali Sit? A. Read On …We showed up at Babbo early Friday evening with hopes of squeezing into the bar. Surprisingly, we were offered a table in the front room almost immediately. And then, seven courses into our eight-course pasta tasting, the manager appeared and asked if we would move inside the dining room to complete our meal. Were we eating too slow? Why would they make us get up when we were nearly done? Whatever the case, we were blunted by carbs, and obliged. One comped dessert later, we were on our way out, and discovered just what had precipitated the move: Mario Batali himself was sitting in our seat. Luckily, we weren’t under him when he took it. — Jennifer Cacicio
Kitchen Abuse Exposed; Health Department Shutdowns TripleApparently, abuse of every kind is rampant in kitchens. Herewith, complaints leveled against Daniel, Jean Georges, Megu, Babbo, and more. [NYP]
Post–KFC–Taco Bell scandal, New York restaurant closures triple. [NYP]
Morandi is, like every other Keith McNally venture, a smashing success, and likely to remain so. [NYP]
Where Should I Eat on Valentine’s Day — Alone?
So how about suggesting places to go on Valentine’s Day when you’re alone and don’t have a valentine?
It just so happens that the Underground Gourmet recommended a “breakup burger” yesterday. But if you’re not simply looking to drown your sorrows in a “ripe slab of Limburger cheese and a pile of chopped raw onion,” may we suggest the following candidates, each perfect, in different ways, for solo dining.
We Submit Ourselves to PrimeTime Tables
If you’ve read Eater in the past couple of weeks, you’ve heard of Primetimetables.com, a scalping-type service that gets you tough-to-score reservations for a flat fee. It’s true that the restaurant world could soon experience something similar to what’s happened on Broadway, where good seats at hot shows can go for as much as $500 – it’s simple market economics, and you don’t have to be a Marxist to see the downside. But it’s also true that $45 will get you a table at a top restaurant if you call that day before noon. Heady stuff. We thought we’d give it a whirl – see how well the system works, and just how dirty we felt afterward.
Back of the House
K-Fed Demeans Fast-Food Workers; David Blaine’s Zagat StuntRestaurant-industry representatives want a K-Fed Super Bowl ad in which he’s a fast-food worker pulled, because it “leaves the impression that working in a restaurant is demeaning and unpleasant.“ Being associated with K-Fed is demeaning enough, no? [MSNBC]
Meanwhile, McDonald’s announces its strongest year in three decades. [NYT]
Related: Food Network Accused of (Subliminal) Advertising
David Blaine, in his most grueling stunt yet, chats with the Zagats at Babbo, calling Tim Zagat “a saint.” [NYP]
Related: Junior Zagat Resigns
How in God’s Name Do I Get a Table at Babbo?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!
Mario Batali Is a Kobe Human, and Other Great Lines From His RoastMario Batali looked bigger than life last night, as he sat in a carved wooden throne taking punches from speaker after speaker at his celebrity roast at Capitale. The event, which benefited the Food Bank of New York, was simultaneously tame and vulgar: Every imaginable anatomical insult was made, but there was barely a mention of Super Mario’s actual partying practices, which are legendary in restaurant circles. Rachael Ray and Rocco DiSpirito, neither of whom were present, took far worse abuse.
Still, the roasters, who ranged from Sarah Silverman and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog to Anthony Bourdain, got the merry pasta mogul pretty good.
A Salumi-Obsessed Chef’s New GigWhen we were told that Italian Wine Merchants had a new chef, our first thought was, Why would a wine store need a chef? In fact, the Batali-owned specialty shop does a huge banquet business and is booked for private events nearly year-round. The new chef is Liz Chapman, a veteran of Craft, Casa Mono, and Babbo, and a big part of her mandate is to create the cured meats that Mario & Co. so adore. Chapman, whose fiancé is Per Se chef de cuisine Jonathan Benno, tells us, “I’m really here for the salumi. I wake up in the morning, and they’re all I think about.” We know how you feel, Liz. Just don’t tell Benno!