First off, I love the ambiance of a garage turned into a restaurant. It gives the place a casual yet trendy enough feel that you could take a date or your family. While waiting at the bar for the rest of my party to arrive for our reservations, I enjoyed the diverse yet reasonably priced wine and drink menu as I downed a cold craft wheat beer. We were able to dine on a mild march night when the garage doors were raised so that everyone could enjoy the fresh night air.
To start off the meal, we shared the calamari appetizer. The calamari was tender and cooked nicely. It would have paired perfectly with the greens, chilies, radish, and chickpeas had the dish not been overly acidic. I felt that the acidity overpowered the lightness of the entire dish.
Next, we ordered the chicken, gnocchi, and risotto, with a side of potatoes. I must say, even knowing the hype around Jonathan Waxman’s chicken, I was not disappointed. The flavorful yet thin and crisp chicken skin with salsa verde added a lovely texture to each bite. I normally do not order chicken at restaurants because it can be easily overcooked and frankly, I can cook it well enough. However, there is no way (yet) that I could reproduce meat that was as juicy and tasty with perfect skin as the one I had eaten.
As for the gnocchi, I will admit I am no expert, so I will just say that the few bites I had were pretty good. My friend thoroughly enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was very memorable. I personally preferred Babbo’s gnocchi, a lighter, softer, more airy version. Unfortunately, the low point of the meal came in the form of the risotto. The rice was undercooked and a bit crunchy to the extent where we were debating whether or not to send it back. The only acceptable aspect was its sauce, but that itself could not redeem the dish.
The potato sides were fried pretty well and still had some good sized chunks of potato. You can’t really go wrong with fresh rosemary and potatoes.
For dessert, we shared a canoli and chocolate pudding. Both weren’t bad, but they were nothing special.
Portion sizes at Barbuto were very good. We could have actually done without the sides, but I’m just a glutton so we ended up finishing everything. Given the ratio of waiters/waitresses to customers, the slightly slow service was expected. We were also given a nice red wine recommendation by our waitress to go along with our meal. One last note is that the half-open kitchen is always a nice touch. I was able to see chef “Obi Wan Kenobi” himself moving about the kitchen.
Overall, Barbuto just met my expectations but did not provide much in terms of surpassing them. I would come back as I liked the atmosphere and most of the food, but I’ll probably stay away from the risotto.