110 Waverly Place near 6th Ave, West Village

Besides the summers off, there is another great perk about being a teacher couple, being able to arrive at dinner at 4:50 pm. What’s considered early bird in Florida, is also the secret to getting a table at one of the most consistently popular reservations in NYC. It has been 13 years since Mario Batali’s flagship Babbo has opened and it is still on top. While he has opened many other NYC eateries, Esca, Lupa, Otto, Casa Mono, Del Posto, and the enormous Eataly, most people still love the casual enoteca that is Babbo. If you show up here at 5:00, have a drink at the bar, you will most likely be eating by 5:30. It may be early, but with the incredible 8-course pasta and dessert tasting, it turns into a 2.5 hour feast.

We had 5 truly exceptional pasta courses, progressing in heaviness. From the simple pea sauce in course 1, through the hearty ragu in course 5, is was an amazingly satisfying menu. The 3 desserts were just as interesting and delicious. While this might not pushed the envelope as much as other tasting menus, more importantly it actually gives you what you want and yields an exceptionally satisfying dinner. At $69 for 8 courses, it is an excellent deal and a ton of food. Plus, the setting is an intimate townhouse and service is top notch. Somehow, after hearing rave reviews of Babbo for 13 years, my first visit turned out to be an underhyped experience and the most enjoyable dinner I have had so far in 2011.