The big, open space inside Mario Batali’s upscale Italian dining room feels more like a lobby: There’s a lounge to the left, fine dining to the right, private tables upstairs and giant drapes blotting out the view of the Meatpacking District. In the background, a live pianist plays sleepy sonatas. On the plus side, the noticeably large tables are spaced generously apart from one another. The service is knowledgeable, omnipresent and invisible, the pastas are unimpeachable successes, and the wine list features some great Italian choices.
A bomb of fresh lemon accompanies each bite of the marshmallow-soft ricotta-stuffed tortelli, and the spinach tagliatelle is pure food porn; the savory, rich bolognese ragù painted each strand beautifully. Though the main courses may feel like a let down following such perfect primi plates.
If Del Posto were the creation of some chef fresh from Florence, he’d be crowned a pasta wunderkind. Batali, alas, lives by higher standards. Towards the end of one meal, an elegant man at the next table told me that Del Posto wasn’t bad, but that he planned to stick with Babbo, where he dines every week. I can’t say I blame him.