March 20 – National Ravioli Day
I kinda love when national food holidays feature savory treats instead of sweet 🙂 I feel there are a ton more restaurants and chefs in New York putting their own unique spin on the ravioli than, say, the lemon chiffon cake. If you didn’t know already, ravioli, traditionally, are egg yolk pasta pieces filled with meat or cheese and served in a broth or, more common on this side of the ocean, a yummy sauce. They’ve been around since the fourteenth century, at least, and it’s one of the staples of Italian cuisine that we’ve really embraced as a comfort food for Americans all across the country. Of course, the quality of a ravioli is a humongous range, from the highest levels of fine cuisine to microwavable tubs of Chef Boyardee. (But admit it, you loved Chef Boyardee as a kid!) Hopefully, the selections of ravioli I’ve sampled from the city fall closer to the first example than the second 😉
And there’s no question, for the past decade or so, that Babbo is certainly one of the best. Fronted by Food Network veteran Mario Batali, Babbo is the rustic Italian eatery that made rustic Italian cool again, and is certain to be one of the restaurants in New York to go down as a legend of our generation. It’s almost impossible to get a dinner reservation at times, but if you snag one (and plan to drop the major moolah for the plates), you have to try the beef cheek ravioli. A part of the cow that’s usually overlooked by most chefs, Batali glorifies the cheek in this buttery, light ravioli, which is accompanied by a duck liver sauce and black truffles. It was a gutsy move even for this gutsy chef, and it’s given him the accolades his dishes, particularly the ravioli, deserve. Now, it’s become one of the signature dishes at Babbo, a testament to a great chef; it’s even been spotlighted on Anthony Bourdain’s show “No Reservations” (along with a cooking tutorial by chef Batali himself!) So be sure to try it out for yourself on National Ravioli Day and see if a cheek really can melt in your mouth!
110 Waverly Pl (between Mac Dougal St & W Washington Sq)
“One of the singular pleasures of eating out in New York City in the early years of the new century is the arrival of a plate of steaming beef-cheek ravioli at Babbo, Mario Batali’s flagship restaurant on Waverly Place in Greenwich Village. The delicate pasta triangles glisten beneath a velvety sauce made of crushed squab liver livened with capers and anchovies. Soft shavings of pecorino Romano wilt in the sauce’s heat. At the pressure of a fork, the dough gives way to the soft, buttery ooze of a melting beef interior, and the scent of Sunday gravy travels up from the plate on a magic carpet of shaved black truffles. Accompanied by a glass of Barolo, and consumed alongside a person of beauty and intelligence, the beef-cheek ravioli at Babbo represent a pinnacle of the fine dining range in Manhattan.”–The New York Times
“And then there’s Batali’s ability to create dishes that are so good they become buzzwords: I’m thinking specifically of the beef-cheek ravioli at his 12-year-old Manhattan flagship, Babbo.”–Food And Wine Magazine
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“For my entree I went with the servers recommendation: beef cheek ravioli. I’ve never had beef cheek before, but it was super tender and all parts delicious. The pasta was a winner in and of itself: handmade pasta really can’t be beat. Take note, they’re happy to split pasta courses up to three ways if you want to sample several with your table.”–Kathleen M.
“Beef cheek ravioli: I ate this meal five days ago and I still think about it. It’s like someone figured out how to wrap an orgasm in pasta and served it. Order this, even if you’re vegan. Especially if you’re vegan. It’ll change your world perspective.”–Everett T.
And just in case you didn’t land that reservation at Babbo (which is a pretty good assumption you didn’t!), you don’t have to resort to your can of Boyardee to get your National Ravioli Day fix. Tenpenny on East 46th Street, inside the Gotham Hotel, makes a pretty mean porchetta ravioli. But when I say “porchetta ravioli,” don’t expect to just find a dish of egg pasta filled with the savory, deliciously fatty pork meat inside. Tenpenny has made the dish an experience in itself, with fresh smoked ricotta complementing the porchetta and an egg on top of the whole meal, its yolk just waiting to be poked with the prongs of your fork. It turns the dish into an extremely rich and sumptuous dinner, one you can see and participate in the final stages of preparation–an interesting, interactive part to a meal you rarely see in dining these days. And if you feel like you’re getting a sloppy ravioli seconds, you’d be happy to know Tenpenny’s ravioli was chosen last year as one of NY Eater’s 12 new must-try pasta dishes–definitely rising up against the old (new) standard of Babbo.
16 E 46th St (between 5th Ave & Madison Ave)
“It’s easy to love homemade ravioli stuffed with roasted pork, alongside creamy smoked ricotta, and fresh rapini heads. But the thing that really sets this dish over edge is the soft-poached egg nestled in the middle — break that apart, and you’ve got a second layer of sauce. Grilled bread comes on the side, so you can sop up the goo at the end. A strong contender for best new pasta dish in NYC.”–NY Eater
“But you’d be remiss to overlook this spot, which serves one of our favorite pasta dishes: porchetta ravioli. Chef Christopher Cipollone stuffs the plump orbs with herb-roasted pork and a hearty smack of Brooklyn’s own smoked Salvatore ricotta, topping it all off with fresh rapini heads. A soft-poached egg rests in the middle, begging to be cracked open to ooze its yolk all over the ravioli. A lot of players are at work in this dish, but the cheese lends both a rich earthiness and a smooth creamy finish and serves as the perfect foil for the salty pig and bitter greens.”–The Village Voice
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“For my entree I had the porchetta ravioli that the waitress suggested. The pork was delicious and crispy. The ravioli came with a fried egg on top. When the yoke was broken the dish became extremely rich. My only complaint was the size of the entree for the price. It could have more raviolis.”–Leslie L.
“Food was fantastic- i had the steak and my girlfriend had the porchetta ravioli both dishes were delicious and a good portion. I liked the atmosphere sort of surprised to find such a cool laid back restaurant in midtown between 5th and madison.”–Colin R.