It's been a long time coming: 14 years twirled with mint love letters and beef-cheek ravioli at Babbo, but not one peep about lunch.
This spring, that finally changed. Now, every Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Babbo is much the same and completely different: Lunch showcases Mario Batali's gutsy, blithe take on Italian cooking, but in a comparatively sedate setting.
In the daylight hours, there is no elbowing your way through a Lambrusco-soaked bar crowd. The music is lighter, the service more casual and the staggering flower sprays more noticeable.
The $49 four-course tasting menu is a steal. But rather than eat the same dishes as our dining partner, we recommend an a la carte approach.
So move toward an appetizer of blanched favas and mint with Pecorino Marzolino ($14) before the season's beans disappear into the sticky morass of summer.
Then sample the black spaghetti ($19), which is walloped with fennel, jalapeños, bottarga and the crunch of toasted breadcrumbs, and pork loin ($22), which is turned into an edible painter's palette with its sliced meat, marinated beets and a saucing of tonnata (tuna sauce).
As soon as tomorrow, you can have the midday meal as it was meant to be experienced.
Babbo, 110 Waverly Place (between Washington Sq. W. and Sixth Ave.); 212-777-0303 or babbonyc.com
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