after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

We Got Lucky at Barbuzzo

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t says: The FTC (i.e. kp, g, and I) was searching for a new place to visit for our November meeting. As the three of us sat in g’s and my dining room, we brainstormed the restaurants we wanted to visit. Inevitably, Barbuzzo came up – but when I called, we were told they were booked solid ’til 11. Darn. So we figured that we’d get a reservation at an old favorite, Sampan, which now was boasting Korean Friend Chicken. Even that reservation was an hour away and we were hungry already! Darn. So we called up Zavino to see if they were at all available. They were! They said to be there in 20 mins – so we got up and hit the streets. As we walked, I remarked how we had tried to go to Zavino during this past winter’s storms when they were offering free wine. We never did get to go …

When we arrived at Zavino, we were told by the hostess that she had tried to call me, but when I didn’t respond, she had to give away our table. I looked at my phone – they were right. Darn. But I replied that it was ok and that we’d gladly wait 15 minutes for the next one. There wasn’t space at the bar and g is super-claustrophobic (actually, she’s stranger-ophobic), so she asked if we could wait outside instead of being in the way. I reluctantly agreed; we bundled up and ventured out into the cold. But where does one wait around there? I suggested waiting at Capo Giro, as surely they’d have some awesome flavors to pass the time. But when I turned around to see if anyone was paying attention to me, I found that they weren’t. Actually, they were already looking into the window at Barbuzzo. Ah, how we wished we could have gone. And then we saw it! Two open tables! “Should I go in and ask?” kp and g agreed that I should. I walked in, asked the host, and he said, “well, how about I add an extra seat to that two-seater over there by the window?” “SURE!”. And that’s how we got into Barbuzzo on a Saturday night of a holiday weekend without a reservation … dumb luck! (FYI – I did go back to Zavino to tell them that we were bailing on them – they looked little sad because I think they just got a free table … darn for them …)

Dec 2010, Saturday Dinner, Party of 3. Our waiter came over and introduced himself. He explained that they were a small plate restaurant that recommended two dishes per person. That sounded reasonable. I asked him what were the “best” items on the menu, to which he replied that the meatballs were something that they were becoming known for. When I pressed him for more responses, he suggested a particular pizza (called uovo) and two pastas (the gnocchi and the paccheri). As we stared at the menu there was just too much from which to choose! So g, kp, and I decided that we’d each order two items, and we’d get the “pig popcorn” as well.

g chickened out (i.e. avoided decision-making) and went for the meatball and the paccheri – two of the items that the waiter had already told us about. Cheater. I went for the roasted Brussels sprouts and an order of the sheeps milk ricotta. kp opted for the uovo pizza and the branzino. We were going to share, so it really didn’t matter who ordered what … so let’s tell you how it went down.

First out was the pig popcorn. This was pork rind to-the-max. It was SO crispy, it was almost disturbingly loud to bite into! Seriously! It was the best pork rind I’ve ever had – although I haven’t had many so perhaps I’m a bad judge. kp said it was also done very well – among the best he’s had.

Next came the cheese. Holy crap, that cheese was crazy! It was an oozy-puddle of white streaked with what I imagine is some balsamic-based sauce and some herbs and toasted bread. This cheese was no ordinary ricotta. It was much softer and gooey-er. And the taste was zippy – almost like a dose of sour cream in our cheese. Actually, if you blended together sour cream and ricotta, I imagine this is what it would taste like (idea for next weekend!!) We demolished the cheese and the wonderfully grilled bread. Basically, take the luxurious mouthfeel of eating cheese-and-bread, but add a tidbit of zip. It … was … so … good.

The meatballs hit the table and they were also awesome. Made with ground shortrib and pork shoulder, the meat was tender and actually flavorful – this was no ordinary ball of meat. The chunk of cheese (caciocavallo) in the middle was very nice, although it could have been just a bit more melty. The sauce was pretty good – I prefer mine less sweet/tangy than theirs, but it wasn’t the nasty sweet/tangy you get from Chef Boyardee or something like that. Really, the star was the meat and cheese. Overall, the meatballs were better than those at C19. Now if I could combine that meatball with g’s tomato sauce (i.e. “gravy” as Italians call it), I’d eat it every day. Seriously. She knows that this is no hyperbole.

The pizza was beautiful. Its bubbled misshapen crust emanated a light scent of truffle (it was surprising that the truffle wasn’t overpowering at all!) The crust was thin without being annoyingly crispy – it still had some flex to it. The toppings were wonderful (Brussels sprout leaves!! truffle!) with none overpowering the other, and the not-fully-cooked egg brought about a special decadence to the already lovely cheese.

Next, the pasta and Brussels sprouts. Now, I must confess that by this point, I was getting quite full – but overall these were still fantastic dishes. I felt the sauce was once again a little more sweet/tangy than I like, but the pasta was perfectly cooked, with just the right amount of bite. Even though I should have stopped eating, my mouth desperately wanted more pasta just because it was so pleasant to chew. The other components of the pasta were spot-on, with a little bit of pork and escarole – very nice (I’ve forgotten about the other components). As for the sprouts, I prefer my Brussels sprouts a little more well done on the inside and a bit more singed on the outside, but g quite liked the texture of the Brussels sprouts, claiming they were perfect. Finally, the branzino came out – it was also delicious – totally destroying that sorry-excuse-for-a-fish at C19.

I apologize for being light on details about the food, but take my word for it that everything was fabulous. Perhaps the only thing I wouldn’t order again is the branzino, but that’s just because I normally don’t order fish at restaurants. Everything else was so good that even if we went back, it’d be hard to pick something new. That said, there was a whole SLEW of desserts that all sounded so fantastic, but I had to cry uncle. You know I was full if I turned down a salted caramel budino.

What are the “bad” things? Well, one thing was that they offered 250-mL pours of wines. That’s not bad – that’s fantastic! Ordering one glass at restaurants is never enough, but ordering two glasses gets pricey. This is more like 1/3 of a bottle, which is nearly the right amount for me if I can’t bring my own bottle – and it didn’t cost much more than a standard glass. So how is this bad? Well, the wine needs to be served a little cooler than it was. Room temperature, I feel, is too warm, especially with a larger volume of wine and because it gets really warm in a tiny space like Barbuzzo. Get it to 60 degrees and I’ll be happy to enjoy the evolving flavors as it comes to room temp.

Oh – I almost forgot! We sat next to this table of older adults while we there. A couple of interesting notes:
1) Valerie came over to talk to them! I don’t know if these old people were related or friends or critics or what, but she totally came over and shmoozed with them and talked about the restaurant and their other restaurants (sidenote: Bindi now has an Indian sous chef – so hopefully the food will be more … “Indian” for kp).
2) One of the ladies at the table was hilarious. She looked at our table and commented that we were ordering very similar things. She also commented on other items we ordered saying they were “so delicious” the last time they came. I offered her a taste of some of our items as a way to try and shmooze with them – I figure if Valerie knows them, then maybe Valerie can know us, too!
3) They totally pulled out a bottle of their own!! It was a Brunello di Montalcino – definitely a wine I would have loved to have tried. I don’t know if they were charged corkage or what, but I want to drink my own wine at Barbuzzo!!
4) The dude who pulled out the wine also had a little pen-light that he used so he could see the menu better. Hi-lar-ious. Now I know what to get my dad for Christmas.

In summary, I feel that Barbuzzo offers some of the best Italian food we’ve had in a while, including Amis. The food was better than Modo Mio (although Modo Mio has more of a home-cooked “style” to it). The pasta was cooked as well as at Melograno – with only the sauce giving Melograno the edge. Then again, at $3 cheaper, Barbuzzo’s not completely out of the pasta picture … Also, when’s the last time we could get “fun” foods at Melograno like pork rinds and pizza? Never. Result: Barbuzzo is our new favorite place to go. As soon as I figure out the deal with bringing my own wine, we’ll have to start getting buddy-buddy with the staff.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

30 November 2010 at 11:32pm

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