Batali would play Bob Marley songs on the sound system, knowing the New York Times restaurant critic was a fan. He would berate staff who failed to recognise celebrities, who must be served first and given special treatment. To make a humble fish soup called cioppino, he would rummage through bins and chopping boards, collecting left overs (tomato pulp, carrot tops, onion skins), then price the dish at $29 and tell the waiters to sell the hell out of it or be fired. Short ribs prepared in advance, wrapped so tightly in plastic wrap and foil that they wouldn’t spurt sauce if stepped on, would keep in the walk-in fridge for up to a week.
Maybe that’s why a recent trip to Babbo was not the top-shelf experience we expected.