Monday, June 17, 2013


It's June, and we all know what that means...HAPPY BIRTHDAY to ME!! (It's the 11th if anyone cares.) Yes, I know I'm a tremendous baby, and I know people don't do this over the age of 6, but I truly believe Birthday's are a big freakin deal, and if I wanna go out 12 different times to celebrate, that is exactly what I'm going to do!  

So this June 11th, the restaurant honor goes to Babbo, a tried and true classic, that I haven't been to since my NYU days. I really just wanted Italian food done right, and if anyone knows Italian food, I'm thinking Mario Batali can take me there. Of all his establishments (Del Posto, Eataly, Lupa, OTTO, etc), I feel like Babbo best represents classic, delicious Batali food, without all the bells and whistles of a Celebrity Chef helmed restaurant. 

So about a month prior to the day, I diligently secured my reservation because really there is no other way, they are always packed! Once you do get in, you'll quickly find Babbo is a pretty classy joint without being too stuffy. There's a main dining room, as well as a loft-like seating area on the second floor with a beautiful skylight above. Both times that I've been here I was seated upstairs, and generally enjoyed the atmosphere. My only minor complaint is that service is on the slow side. Ever been to one of those places where there are 8 servers around but you seem to be invisible? It was kind of like this, although when we did find our waiter, he could not have been more professional. 
So we decided to go with a couple of appetizers, 2 pastas, and share a main fish. We were quickly served Roasted Chickpeas Bruschetta to start, and I must say, it was perfection. For apps we got the Asparagus Milanese with a poached egg and parmiagiano, and the Carciofi (artichokes) alla Romano. No complaints here,  both appetizers were excellent.

 After the apps, there was some lag time where we devoured the bread and soaked it in the delicious olive oil, but as soon as the pasta course came out we forgot all about our wait. We choose the Maccheroni alla Chitarra with oven dried tomatoes, red chillies and bottarga di muggine. Don't be afraid of this one guys, it was really truly delicious. The Garganelli with Funghi Trifolati was also wonderful. Creamy, tangy, with perfect al dente pasta and unbelievable cheese that was brought over and sprinkled on top. I wanna tell you this one was our fav, but really you cannot go wrong with any pasta at Babbo.

After another kind of long wait, they brought over the Whole Grilled Branzino with mixed radishes, olives and lemon oregeno jam, and we watched as they expertly filleted that sucker and served it to us on 2 beautifully platted dishes. A perfect, perfect grilled fish. The Jam was interesting, a little on the sweet side, but tasty. We got a side of Babbo Greens with Shallots, which was not very good and definitely not worth getting.

Dessert I'm sorry to say was a disappointment. Maybe I just ordered the wrong one? It was tiny, a couple of bites of fried dough with marinated fruit that we did not even finish.
Regardless, I definitely enjoyed Babbo. Is it my favorite restaurant in the whole city? No way, but the pastas and those appetizers were incredible, and for a fine dining experience without the fancy uptown address, Babbo does the trick. We left happy and full.

Now just 364 days til we start planning next year... :-)

Neighborhood: Greenwich Village

Bite Mark: ***and a half

Good For: Special Occasions, PASTA!

Babbo, 110 Waverly Place 212-777-0303

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Zizi Limona

Great name, great place.
There's a lot of good things happening at Zizi Limona, the newish Mediterranean / Middle Eastern spot in Williamsburg. First off, a couple of things to note. It's only wine and beer, but the wine spritzer, sangria-like, minty cocktail that I had the other night was a so pretty and refreshing, it hit the spot. There's outdoor seating, so add this to your spring al-fresco dining list. Also, it's really casual. I know plenty of Williamsburg restaurants can be described like Zizi as "cute and casual", but this place really is. From the little old world touches, to the "Pereg" spices for sale, or the graffiti  bathroom wall, and the waitress with the sexy-adorable Brittany accent, the whole thing just works.

 Zizi is Middle Eastern food, elevated to that next level. It's not strictly Israeli fare though, there are definitely influences here from Egypt, Morocco and that part of the world. We go way beyond falafel and tahini at Zizi (though their falafel was pretty awesome). I love that they do some interesting takes on the usual boring stuff, as in using a croisseant instead of pita bread or stuffing a cigar with cheese and honey instead of ground meat. For the most part, these variations work, and are precisely what makes Zizi not your average hummus bar. They don't take reservations, but as of now it doesn't seem to be too much of an issue getting in. The service is cheerful and pretty attentive, and overall the food was above average. We ordered a lot (of course), and I have to say that it was really pretty damn cheap too!

On to the food. From the "small zi's" section, we love the Shishito Peppers, with white bean sage and preserved lemon. Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar, is another awesome one. Stuffed with almonds, mozzarella cheese, basil and honey, it's just a big bite of deliciousness. I also love the Aunt Trippo's Falafels with charred onion and curry tahini sauce. The falafel here is bite size, freshly fried, and perfectly crisp. The Crazy Baba was just okay. Gravalax with curry yogurt sauce and fried cauliflower was kinda interesting though I don't know if I'd get it again, and the Grilled Eggplant, feta, arugula salad was light and refreshing. 

Order the Fattoush Salad for sure. I love a good salad and this one comes with cherry tomatoes, grilled pita, olive tapenade, bulgarian feta cheese and za'atar spices. Perfect, just perfect. Zizi Hummus with grilled onions is worth getting and mixing with some of the other items, but I would probably pass on the Shakshuka (though it's quite possible I was just busting at this point and couldn't properly appreciate it). The Whole Grilled Fish, was memorable and excellent. Fresh grilled with some spices and fresh lemon, exactly how I like a good piece of fish. 

I didn't find the desserts to be exceptional, and would probably stick with the food here. There was a take on Baklava, and something with Halva in it, and a special Chocolate Mousse, but nothing really stood out.  

All in all, Zizi is a good find and amongst some of the more pretentious (annoying) spots in B-burg, this is definitely a winner. I liked it a lot. I probably won't run back in the very near future, but it's definitely a great addition to the area, and a nice solid spin on classic Middle Eastern cuisine.

Neighborhood: Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Bite Mark: ***and a half

Good For: Brunch, Casual Date Night, Something a bit Different 

Zizi Limona, 129 Havermeyer Street 347-763-1463