New critic Frank Bruni's premiere Times restaurant review is of Babbo, the crown jewel in chef Mario Batali and partner Joe Bastianich's restaurant empire. Bruni gives three stars, the same rating Ruth Reichl gave it that heady summer of 98 when it first opened (if SLNY were around then, they would have noted that the line was busy busy busy, and then when someone would pick up, the only table was for 10:30PM). But what Gothamist found most interesting was Bruni's thoughts about the differences between three- and four-star restaurants; right now, Babbo falls just short of four because of its ambience (loud music like the Black Crowes and Led Zeppelin from Batali's own iPod, a rushed and frenetic if extremely helpful staff). Bruni also comments on Batali's orange high-top sneakers as a sign of Batali's relaxed iconoclasm, which makes Gothamist demand a re-examination of the footwear of NYC chefs, which ran in the Times a couple years ago. The article pointed out how Batali liked to wear rubber clogs in the kitchen (because they are dishwashable) while Jean-Georges Vongerichten wore Prada shoes.
The Babbo website. And if you're in Seattle, check out Salumi, the cafe run by Batali's dad, Armandino. Cured meats, communal dining.