Barbuto has actually been around for quite awhile, but for some reason it never crossed my radar. It was only when I saw Chef Jonathan Waxman make an appearance on Top Chef as a judge that I dug into his past and found that he ran a well-regarded Italian restaurant in the West Village. Of course, at around the same time I discovered this, I also read that the restaurant might be closing soon. This sense of urgency drove me to start searching for reservations before Barbuto officially closed.
Other people seemed to be driven by a similar sense of urgency, and getting a table at a reasonable hour seemed impossible. What I did do was drop by during a weeknight and try my luck as a walk-in. There was one outside table available, and while the weather wasn’t all that warm, we decided to roll with it.
Barbuto is a beautiful restaurant with a bit of a scene, and if I happened to live in the neighborhood, I would have dinner here regularly. The Italian menu is a traditional one, with all the classics like bolognese and bruschetta represented, and the way the restaurant executes the dishes is pretty much by the book. I had very high expectations for Barbuto, given that Waxman was a strong contender on Top Chef Masters, and I was a little surprised by how the food was always competent and very solid, but rarely surpassed that. There was never a moment when I thought something was rapturously delicious or a contender for best in the city, other than the pollo al forno, which is legitimately one of the best roast chicken dishes that I’ve ever had.
The insalata di cavolo tasted like a pretty standard kale caesar salad. The ingredients were all very fresh, and I liked how the dressing was very light and vibrant, especially with the peppery undertones, but it was all a little too basic to really make an impact. The gnocchi stagionale was a little more interesting. The gnocchi had been pan seared beforehand, creating a satisfying, mochi-like chewing sensation. It was accompanied by some spring greens like asparagus and ramps, all of which were draped in a rich, buttery veil. On paper, it seemed like it would have tasted amazingly good, but that wasn’t the case. Maybe the decision to sear the gnocchi, which had created an impermeable charred crust, prevented the pasta from absorbing the sauce and creating the buttery chemistry that it deserved? Don’t get me wrong, it was certainly Top Chef good, but not Top Chef Masters good.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter, because overall the food is pretty good, and you’re just happy to be eating outdoors. You’re in good hands here–there’s a reason why Barbuto’s been around for 10 years.
775 Washington St (between Washington and Green St)
New York, NY 10014