This food is accompanied by all sorts of pageantry and largesse, which, I’ll admit, is easy to get used to. At the bar you can get Bellinis flavored with persimmon, and wines from 40 regions of Italy. There are intricate tasting menus available, and nine types of beef, fish, and fowl, carved for two or four at a serving station as big as the bridge of a battleship. For dessert, I recommend a superior, Italian version of baked Alaska called an apricot cassata di gelati, consisting of apricot sorbet and almond cake, encased in a decadent meringue top. There’s a nice rich slice of gianduja flecked with gold leaf, and a tasting of chocolates you can wash down with a selection of esoteric rums. There’s also a classic zabaglione, whisked up on the night I ordered it by Lidia Bastianich herself. The first lady of Italian cuisine beats the eggs, sugar, and Marsala over a low flame, then pours the mixture into little pink Venetian glasses. The result is creamy and faintly boozy, and, of course, delicious. But somehow, in that grand, cavernous space with its tall columns and endlessly tinkling piano music, a little of the essential flavor is lost.
Address: 85 Tenth Ave., nr. 16th St.; 212-497-8090
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 5:30 to 10:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5:30 to 11.
Prices: Antipasti: $13 to $17. Pastas: $12 to $30. Entrées: $27 to $35.
Ideal Meal: Grilled radicchio, chestnut ravioli with pigeon, squab or calf's liver, apricot cassata.
Note: If you have the cash, try the veal rack for two ($95) and the pork loin for four ($140).
We subtract one star for the stagy atmosphere and another for the lack of what, for a better word, we’ll call “Bataliness.” The food’s very good, but it’s not Babbo in its prime.