Busy Babusci's in Little Italy could use a little extra help

July 16, 1992|By Mary Maushard CO MATTER OF TASTE

I'd like to go back to Babusci's on a night when the small Italian restaurant has enough help.

Babusci's is a charming place in Little Italy with an attractive dining room, good food and a great view of thunderstorms approaching from the West, we discovered. But the poor service left a bad taste in my mouth.

One waitress and one busboy were trying to take care of the whole restaurant, which she said was unprecedentedly busy for a week night.

She was working hard, though somewhat inefficiently, but became totally swamped when a group of about a dozen took several tables and a lot of her attention.

The bartender, presumably the owner and/or manager, pitched in, as did a young man recruited from somewhere. He was friendly and helpful, though not very knowledgeable.

Still, we waited a long time for someone to clear the dinner dishes and take our dessert orders, and another long time for the dessert -- two cannoli. I had to ask twice for coffee.

But by this time, the storm was full blown; we weren't going anywhere anyway.

Babusci's has about 15 tables in one dining room with a small bar adjacent to it.

It's a bit intimate and attractive with blue tablecloths and pretty silk flowers. Several of the tables are on the Eastern Avenue side of the dining room in an area that resembles a greenhouse with tinted glass all around and tiny lights twinkling within.

We had a great table in one corner of this "porch." The lightning and thunder cracked and rumbled above us and the rain slid down the glass walls. My two young dining companions thought it entertaining. I would have enjoyed it more if the coffee had been better; what I finally got tasted as if it had been sitting for a long time.

Most of our food had, however, been quite good.

The house salad of tomatoes, lettuce and peppers was lightly seasoned by Little Italy's standards, but the dressing was quite flavorful with a hint of Romano and an oily richness. The tomatoes were exceptionally good for early summer.

My older daughter chose beef ravioli ($ 7.75); her sister, who is clearly the family's pasta queen, wanted "plain spaghetti." We got a side order ($4), garnished only with parsley. She eschewed even the Parmesan and declared the pasta "better than what you make for us." I couldn't argue.

The ravioli was also a hit. The serving was large, as were the individual pillows stuffed high with beef. A rich tomato sauce smothered the pasta.

My daughters also shared an order of French fries ($1.75), not exactly Italian, but one of their favorites just the same. Again, the serving was large, and the potatoes were crisp and good.

I ordered Chicken Bianco ($10.95), a combination of chicken breast, mushrooms and lots of onions in a buttery, white wine sauce. The chicken, cut into small pieces, was plentiful and perfectly tender; the sauce was rich -- almost too rich -- and the vegetables flavorful. It was unusual and very good.

Babusci's menu is large with a good sampling of veal and chicken dishes and traditional pastas. Entrees are served with a house salad, pasta or French fries.

We had very good cannoli ($2.75) for dessert; the waitress was just too harried for me to inquire about other selections. When I heard her describing a homemade Jewish apple cake to someone at a nearby table, I wished I'd known about it earlier.

We took home fettucine alfredo ($9.50) for my husband, who could not join us. He thought the sauce extremely creamy and good, though the pasta was a bit dry, he said. Again, we waited a long time for this carryout order and then almost did not get the salad.

I was glad to go, even though the rain was far from over.

With the carryout, one cocktail, two soft drinks and one coffee, our bill was $52.46.

Even before the waitress got swamped, she wasn't friendly and didn't look exactly thrilled to be serving children.

Babusci's really isn't a family restaurant, though we were able to find tastes and portions to fit their young appetites. And the storm provided a diversion from the extraordinarily long waits.

I do wish there had been a second waitress, though.

** 1/2 Babusci's Restaurant

413 S. High St., Little Italy

539-1531

Hours: 4:30 to 11 p.m. daily

Reservations: Recommended on weekends.

Credit cards: Major credit cards accepted.

Handicapped access: Limited access.

Smoking: No separate areas designated.

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