Restaurants & Bars

Barbuto on Christmas Eve

Bob Martinez | Dec 28, 2004 08:25 AM

We’ve been meaning to visit Barbuto for months and finally connected for an early meal on Christmas Eve. The restaurant is set in a converted industrial space that looks like it was once a garage. In fact, shiny new garage doors are still in place and form the walls for much of the restaurant. On warm days they are raised and the restaurant is open to the breezes. Last Friday the restaurant was warm and much cozier than expected considering it’s industrial setting. The lighting is quite soft which smoothes out the modern edges.

Chef Jonathan Waxman presides over an open kitchen in the corner where you can entertain yourself watching the staff prepare the meals at an efficient but relaxed pace. Waxman seemed relaxed himself and this carried over to the staff - he seems to run a happy shop.

The focus here is on simple and fresh food at reasonable prices and our meal reflected that. Starters were calamari salad for my partner and cranberry bean soup for myself. She was well pleased with the salad and the soup was excellent as well, with a peppery undertone that was the perfect counter to the cold night.

For mains we had rigatoni with wild boar ragout and the skirt steak with a spicy chili salsa on the side. The salsa was a nice complement to the steak and the dish would have been excellent but for the fact that it was ordered medium rare and arrived rare. Yes, we should have sent it back. No, we didn’t. Our fault – I guess we were having too good a time. The pasta was a standout, nicely al dente and a good match for the stewed boar.

It was hard not to like the prices – none of the regular entrees was above $19 and there were solid wine choices available in the mid $30s.

Quibble #1 – It was Christmas Eve and the restaurant was serving a traditional Italian Seven Fishes meal which, at $50 per person, was significantly more than the entrees on the regular menu. The waitress was chirpy but quite aggressive in her attempt to push us into ordering it. When we chose regular entrees instead she became significantly less friendly although she was still thoroughly professional.

Quibble #2 – Barbuto subscribes to the Chef Knows Best school of serving. Salt and pepper were not available at the table. The pasta with wild boar was seasoned perfectly – the bean soup could have used a pinch of salt.

Big Bonus – Angela, the wonderful bartender who used to work at City Hall is now at Barbuto. There are none better.

775 Washington St. at W. 12th St.


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