We finished an outstanding birthday weekend with a trip to one of the best restaurants in town, Babbo. The flagship of Mario Batali's ever-expanding empire, Babbo serves gussied-up rustic Italian food in an atmosphere that manages to be urbane and rollicking at the same time. Babbo reservations are notoriously difficult to come by, but well worth it, with antipasti like an absolutely perfect insalata caprese and a plate of culatello, cured in-house for a year, that was such a terrific marriage of sweet and salty as to make us forget the months that have passed since we were in Rome. Our main dishes were richly flavorful spaghettini with lobster and spaghetti al telefono, made with fruity sungold tomatoes that provided a final burst of summer.
The enthusiastic service--the look in our waiter's eyes when describing the culatello sold it for us--was rounded out with a lovely treat at the end of the meal: the fussy toddler at the next table turned out to belong to Luca Pasquinelli, Babbo's wine director, and his wife, and upon leaving they sent over two glasses of moscato d'asti, a sweet and snappy dessert wine that went wonderfully with our birthday cake. Stepping out into the warm night afterwards, we were a little older and a lot happier.