As the classic-rock soundtrack throbbed and we dissected our dishes at Babbo, some terrific and some downright mediocre, I kept thinking one thing over and over: D.C.’s Tosca is every bit as good, if not better, than Mario Batali’s famous operation in Greenwich Village. This may not be an altogether fair comparison. Babbo aims for a funkier, more eclectic audience, the kind wooed by a rockin’ atmosphere and a celebrity chef. Tosca, on the other hand, sets its sights on D.C.’s lobbying culture, with its appetite for obvious sophistication both on the plate and in the dining room. But in those areas where Batali and Tosca toque Massimo Fabbri’s interests intersect—pasta, for example—it’s clear to me that the latter chef is operating at a higher level. Consider Fabbri’s fresh tortelli stuffed with robiola cheese and black truffles. The little packets are almost canary yellow in color and absolutely lush on the palate. You don’t chew them so much as let them melt on your tongue. This is pasta that reminds you why Italians look down on French food—if not on celebrity chefs who allow their kitchens to coast on thick, chewy, and undercooked ravioli.

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