My spouse and I dined at Barbuto for brunch on a Saturday afternoon in mid-July 2016. “Barbuto” means “bearded” in Italian, which is surely a nod to the chef/owner Jonathan Waxman’s beard. The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner. Barbuto accepts reservations for parties of three or greater via telephone or by using the Open Table reservation system. The hosts seat parties of two patrons or less on a first-come/first-served basis.
As a party of two, we were fortunate to be seated immediately.
Barbuto, which opened in 2004, is located in the West Village near Washington and 12th Streets. The restaurant occupies a former car repair garage, which features an open and airy space with high ceilings, concrete floors, white brick walls, and an open kitchen with a pizza oven. Garage doors that front two sides of the restaurant roll up in nice weather, allowing both semi-outdoor and sidewalk dining. In addition, Barbuto offers a small private dining room that can accommodate up to 10 guests. Finally, the restaurant offers a chef’s table in the kitchen, where up to 14 guests can watch the chefs in action while they dine on dishes served family-style.
Jonathan Waxman, an American chef who pioneered California cuisine in New York (food cooked using French techniques and fresh local ingredients), owns Barbuto. Waxman attended cooking school in France before working at legendary Chez Panisse in Berkeley and at Michael's in Los Angeles. He currently owns both Jams and Barbuto in New York City, Waxman’s in San Francisco, Brezza Cucina in Atlanta, and Adele’s in Nashville. He also created Bud’s, Hulot’s, Jams of London, and Table 29. He has published two cookbooks, “A Great American Cook” and “Italian My Way”. He participated in two seasons of “Top Chef Masters” on Bravo, where he earned the nickname “Obi Wan Kenobi” because of his great knowledge and his mentoring ability.
Barbuto serves rustic Italian food in a laid-back atmosphere. The menu is seasonal and changes often. To begin, we shared the insalata di cavolo, which features thinly sliced kale and crunchy breadcrumbs tossed in a creamy dressing of anchovies and pecorino – we loved this dish! As entrees, we ordered Barbuto’s signature dish, the JW roasted half-chicken with crispy skin, which is drizzled with salsa verde, and a side order of the patate (potatoes with pecorino and rosemary). Our second entrée was the troto (trout, nicely crisped and served warm atop a cold fingerling dijonnaise potato salad). The portion of the chicken versus the portion of the fish were noticeably different, yet both dishes were quite good. For dessert, we shared the angel food cake, the menu listing of which did not accurately describe it. The very dense (and surely not fat-free!) chocolate chip cake was drizzled with a sort of vanilla icing, and then topped with freshly whipped cream and toasted coconut flakes – really tasty! We would love to return sometime to try some items from the dinner menu such as the pasta with ragu sauce and the braised goat.
We have been trying to dine at Barbuto for a long time, and we are glad that we finally completed our mission! We loved the casual environment, the buzz/vibe, and the excellent food.