Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Getting Reservations at Babbo & How I Met Mario Batali

If you follow my blog at all you know I’m a huge fan of Mario Batali. We cook a lot of his recipes at home and I’ve been to his Las Vegas restaurant, B&B, twice. So of course when I found out I was going to NYC I just had to have dinner at Babbo. Having tried to get reservations on two past vacations I knew this was not going to be easy; but I was determined.

The rule at Babbo is: you can make a reservation a month (to the day) in advance. The reservation line opens daily at 10:00 am EST and closes at midnight. Walk-ins are available but very limited. There are only 6 tables, located by the bar, for walk-ins.

Like I said I was determined to get reservations and would stop at nothing (I’m glad it didn’t come to that). My first strategy was to call just before midnight on the night before my scheduled call day. Technically by the time we got done talking it would be a month to the day. Nice try, but it didn’t work. They wouldn’t even consider it.

On to plan B: Have the concierge at our hotel call. Concierges typically have connections with restaurants and can usually get those hard to come by reservations. Not this time. The concierge was all for helping me, until I mentioned Babbo, then he just laughed.

So it was all on me. If I wanted this reservation, and I did, I would just have to call 1 month to the day and see what happened. I started at exactly 8:00am (Phx time) and got a continuous busy signal. I don’t know about you but busy signals drive me insane and make me even more determined to get through. So, I kept trying and at 8:30 someone answered the phone; only to put me on hold. I stayed on hold for another 30 minutes. When the reservationist finally picked up she only had one available time to offer: 9:15pm. Not ideal, but I took it.

I was going to Babbo!

So I had a month to wait; read and reread the menu; and anticipate the meal. I know I probably drove everyone around me crazy (sorry). I talked about it constantly, but I couldn’t help it. I was so excited.

Fast Forward to this past Saturday night. We arrived at the restaurant 15 minutes early (if it were up to me we would’ve gotten there at noon). Babbo is definitely not set-up for waiting. When you enter the restaurant you’re in the bar area (which holds those walk-in tables I mentioned above) and beyond that is the main dining room. So if the bar is crowded, like it was Saturday night, you are forced to stand in front and practically on top off the walk-ins as they are trying to eat. Very uncomfortable for both them and you. Basically you have two options: 1. Face them and watch them eat or 2. Turn the other way and leave them staring at your behind while they eat. I don’t know about you but It’s not something I’d want to look at during dinner.

This was all but forgotten when I glanced across the room and caught a glimpse of Mario at the bar. He was so close but yet so far. As much as I wanted to, with the crowd it was impossible for me to make my way over to him. So I had to wait for a better opportunity to meet him; which as the night wore on grew more and more unlikely.

We were seated promptly at 9:15 and immediately began perusing the menu. During this time I continued to keep one eye on Mario; making sure I didn’t miss my chance. He seemed busy with customers and we became engrossed in our meal and at some point I lost sight of him.

Our meal at Babbo was excellent; as I knew it would be. We shared the warm tripe alla Parmigiana and duck braciole with asparagus and Parmesan flan for our appetizers. I had the beef cheek ravioli with crushed squab liver and black truffles as my entrĂ©e and my husband had the Chianti stained pappardelle with wild boar ragu. We shared an order of the Italian doughnuts with 3 dipping sauces for dessert. It was all amazing. There’s really not one bad thing I can say about the entire meal. Even the limoncello we had as an digestif was fantastic.

The end of the evening slowly crept up on us and disappointment began to set in. I still had not met Mario and as we made our way to the front of the restaurant I realized he was no longer around. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, he hurried past us heading towards the door.

“Go, go, go,” my husband said as he pushed me forward. “This is your opportunity.”

So I went; caught up to him and tapped lightly on his shoulder. “Would you mind terribly taking a picture with me?” I asked. “I wouldn’t mind at all,” he responded “especially not terribly.” Then he turned to his security guard and said “get the F*** out of my way so I can take a picture with this girl!” We all laughed; a woman at the bar took our picture; and he was
gone.



And that is how I got to meet Mario Batali.


30 comments:

  1. Wow, that is amazing! I love meeting famous chefs, I get pretty tongue tied though :)

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  2. Fantastic story! Congratulations!

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  3. Awesome! That is a great story. Also nice to hear that he so graciously took a picture with you. That makes me like him even more, if that is possible.

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  4. What a fun story. Glad you got to meet Mario and have a great meal too.

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  5. Theresa, I have been to every one of Mario Batali's restaurants many times and have never seen him even near the places!
    That is unbelievable and to get a photo with him!
    How great!!!!!!!! That would make my day!
    Glad you enjoyed!

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  6. OMG!! I am SO envious! The meal sounds incredible, but the pic is to die for- you are beautiful, btw! We have GOT to get together- we live so close! Hope you have a Happy Easter!

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  8. This is so wonderful! I would love to eat there AND meet Mario! OH my! You must have peed your pants! LOL

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  9. Sounds like a great way to celebrate your birthday!

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  10. Bravo your hard work paid off! You go girl!I am glad you got the picture with him!!! Congrats!!!

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  11. lol! Mario Batali is as funny and real as I always thought he was! you're so lucky!
    p.s. was he wearing orange shorts and crocs?

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  12. What a fun experience and a tasty dinner. I am so glad you got your picture with Mario.

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  13. That is so awesome! Your persistence paid off!
    Great photo! Good for you!

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  14. That is the best vacation story I have ever heard. Not to mention, I felt the anticipation while reading and for that 3 minutes was so rooting that you met him. YEAH!!!!! :) Glad you had a dream come true. Was he wearing shorts?

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  15. What a great story! Perserverence does pay off doesn't it! I'm so glad you got to meet Mario =) I haven't really tried his recipes, (I've been busy with Ina Garten's), or heard about his restaurant, (*gasp* -but I doooo live in Canada), but I've been inspired to add his restaurant to my 'bucket list'. Thanks for sharing!

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  16. Oh Theresa this is fabulous!! What a wonderful memento. :)

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  17. Wow, it's that hard to get a reservation at Babbo? Was the place fully packed when you dined there? How many tables in all?

    I've never been, but I was planning to on my next visit to the U.S.

    It's kind of a bummer that such an elemantal thing as restaurant food trascends into stardom, defeating the ultimate purpose. Did you end up paying a fortune? What wine did you order? Was the service good? (can you tell I review restaurants for fun?)
    Ciao and sorry for the "grilling." :)

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  18. Yes, he was wearing his orange Crocs!

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  19. Awesome story and great picture!

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  20. Thanks for that story and the smile. So glad you got your chance!

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  21. OMG I WANT TO MEET MARIO TOO! That is so awesome that you got to meet him... lucky you!

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  22. I cried. lol. I retold your story to my SO. He was happy for you too. I'm not as big of fan as you are to Mario, but I completely understand the love of a food icon, of making that moment of connection. Your blog is wonderful and thank you for posting a comment on mine. Hope to see more of your posts soon!

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  23. What a wonderful story. I am so happy for you! You must have been thrilled to meet Mario. He is one of my favourite chefs. I am taking my daughter to NYC this summer to celebrate her 21st birthday and I am going to try and make a reservation at Babbo!

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  24. Great story! Several years ago, we were lucky enough to have dinner at Babbo. Absolutely Amazing! AND Mario was sitting at the bar as we were leaving. Having had a couple (read; several) glasses of wine, I went right up to him, introduced myself to him, chatting away, and even invited him to our home in Maine if he ever was in the area!!!!! He graciously accepted my invitation......alas, I'm still waiting....hahaha

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  25. Yes, yes. Mario is the bomb. Have you been to his restaurant on the first floor of the Venitian, Enoteca San Marco? My wife ate there two times during our last vacation. Very affordable and excellent entrees. Just another great Mario creation...

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  26. I couldn't care less about meeting someone famous and having my picture taken with them. What does it really add to my life?

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