Chef Jonathan Waxman’s 13-year-old West Village restaurant is as casual and gorgeous as he is… no joke. My pal of many decades is in his prime, swarthy, and greyed out like a sexy Gandalf. In fact, Waxman just won a Beard Award for Best Chef NYC thanks to his culinary wizardry—you see what I did there with that one. Anyway, Barbuto is one of my favorite restaurants anywhere, with a bustling open kitchen, concrete floors and brick walls fronted by breezy glass garage doors. It has all of the creature comforts of a relaxed neighborhood eatery, but take one taste of the California-inspired, rustic, Italian-leaning food, and you immediately understand why you had to make a reservation weeks in advance.
Barbuto is famous for JW’s roast chicken with salsa verde, a dish with a dedicated following. And yes, you should order the chicken with perfectly-crisped skin, but don’t overlook the pastas or vegetable offerings, like the game-changing kale salad. Waxman’s expression of green awesomeness—anchovy-lemon vinaigrette with bread crumbs and pecorino—is the reason kale will never go out of style as quickly as it came in.
Then there’s the not-to-miss polpetta farcita, an incredibly flavorful, fist-sized pork meatball stuffed with swiss chard and topped with fonduta. For dessert? Get the rich chocolate budino, it’s their specialty. The fate of the restaurant’s location is up in the air, as the building was recently sold. If they get the boot, I know Barbuto will find a new home, but those new owners may have to move out of state permanently.
775 Washington Street
New York City 10014
Photographs courtesy of Barbuto.