By Niki D’Andrea
Babbo Italian Eatery opens new location with hot new menu items
“Babbo” means “dad” in Italian, and the food at this locally owned chain is a lot like what an Italian father might cook if all the aunts in the family ever let him in the kitchen – and if he made protein bowls.
That’s right – protein bowls are the newest addition to the entrees on Babbo’s menu. With various pick-your-protein options (chicken, flat iron steak, shrimp, salmon) on a bed of brown rice, red quinoa, broccoli, yellow squash, zucchini and carrots, they don’t exactly scream “authentic Italian!” but they are really, really good. Served in perfectly manageable portions, the protein bowls burst with earthy and wholesome flavors and immaculately cooked meats (the grilled chicken is especially tasty).
The protein bowls aren’t the only thing that’s new with Babbo. There’s a brand new Babbo location near Talking Stick Resort (the eighth Babbo in the Valley since the company’s founding in 2002). There’s also a new cocktail called Electric Lemonade that makes a sweet pairing with the Lemon Cooler Cookie. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We’ll get to dessert later. But first, bruschetta.
Bruschetta (which Italians pronounce brusk-etta, but which everyone else seems insistent on pronouncing brush-etta) isn’t new to the Babbo menu, but they take a lot of pride in it, and it’s some of the better bruschetta around town. The bruschetta comes in trios and options for the pick-three are: roasted red bell pepper and goat cheese; salami and fig with arugula and blue cheese; mozzarella, basil and tomato; pear and walnut with goat cheese, blue cheese and honey; fig and prosciutto with arugula; spicy fig jam with jalapeño and cream cheese; and balsamic marinated tomatoes and goat cheese. There’s not a bad choice among them, but the roasted red bell pepper and goat cheese is one of the best, with the creamy and slightly bitter cheese offsetting the subtle spicy-sweet tango of the peppers.
Babbo’s pastas are also noteworthy. Cooked al dente and served with an ideal ratio of sauce-to-pasta, these dishes stand out among the entrees. There are a whopping 29 pasta options on the menu, including stellar spaghetti and meatballs and a worth-the-wait lasagna. Four new pastas top the menu: Zoodles Arrabbiatta (zucchini noodles in a spicy marinara sauce that includes pomodoro tomato, anchovy paste, onion and fresh basil); Pasta Francaise (fettucine pasta with caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, toasted pine nuts and parmesan in a garlic butter wine sauce); Super Food Pasta (fettucine noodles with pesto, Tuscan kale, spinach, green onions, red chili and garlic in a white wine sauce); and What the Kale? (penne pasta with artichoke, garlic, kale and Roma tomatoes in a creamy three-cheese sauce). Any of the pastas on the menu can be substituted with zucchini noodles for $1.50.
Babbo’s menu is rounded out with salads, sandwiches, calzones, and of course, pizzas. New to the salad selections are a “Super Chopped Mediterranean” and a “BBQ Crispy Chicken Salad.” There are three new sammies: a prosciutto and fig variety that’s reminiscent of the bruschetta, a crispy chicken parmesan sandwich, and a “remodeled” Buffalo chicken Caesar sandwich (served with blue cheese and topped with a Caesar salad). Five 12-inch Neopolitan-style pizzas have been added to the menu, as well, including a flavor explosion called the “Greek Garden” topped with artichoke, kalamata olives, red bell pepper, pepperoncini, red onion and feta. Also notable: the meaty Farmhouse pizza studded with sausage, bacon and capicola and topped with a sunny side-up egg. And keeping with the restaurant’s thing for fusing fig and prosciutto, there’s a new fig and prosciutto pizza (the Italian sausage and gouda cheese make this perhaps the tastiest fig-and-prosciutto iteration on Babbo’s menu).
If you manage to make it through appetizers and entrees and still have room for dessert, the Lemon Cooler Cookie is a must-try. This massive cookie (be prepared to share!) is filled with gooey, lemony goodness and topped with white chocolate and coconut ice cream and big, fragrant mint leaves. It’s downright dreamy. If you imbibe in alcohol, the new Electric Lemonade cocktail (a blend of passion fruit vodka, lemon juice, lime and mint) pairs perfectly with this sweet treat.
It’s the kind of dinner denouement any dad would dig, Italian or not.
Babbo Italian Eatery
8840 E. Talking Stick Way