Barbuto is literally a block from where I live so I have been there many times. In all honesty, I have never been wowed by the food but there are a few things they do really well. First of all, more than anything, the space is fantastic. Glass windows that are rolled up during the summer to create a garage feel. It is pretty great.
There are 2 private rooms. One in the front, where you don't get the vibe or feel of the restaurant. The other one is in the kitchen where you can basically seat 12. The pros are that you are in the kitchen and the place is rocking, the cons are that you can't hear a thing. I was in the kitchen last night for a private party. Also, Jonathan Waxman (owner and chef) was in the kitchen early in the evening too. First time I have actually seen him there. This restaurant has been a huge success for him.
The menu was made for the party so it was family style of a variety of their dishes. A nice way to taste everything. We began with the Antipasti course. Prosciutto, salty thin bread sticks and pieces of rosemary focaccia. Didn't taste the focaccia but the prosciutto was excellent. They have a fine looking prosciutto slicer in the kitchen. We also have grilled ciabatta that had been rubbed with garlic and then a thin layer of ricotta lathered over the top with some ramps. A nice start. The other plate was a large salad of baby arugula, sliced artichokes, pine nuts and shaved ricotta salata. Not that interesting and was in desperate need of dressing or something to connect the flavors.
Next out was pasta. Josh and Fred rave over the pasta at Barbuto. It is their spot, at the bar, when nobody is home for dinner by the two of them. Small pan fried gnocci with sliced asparagus, english peas and some pancetta. It was garlicky so I passed but people raved. The thick pasta Bolognese was really good. A ragu of pork, veal and prosciutto. Full of flavor and really rich.
For the next course we had a taste of all their top main courses. The chicken is roasted in the brick burning oven and topped with a salsa verde. The chicken is always a hit here and just cooked to perfection. We also have the thinly sliced rare skirt steak with slabs of grilled onions and a chili salsa. The meat and onions had the same marinade. Really good steak, lots of flavor too. The other was the whole roasted black bass served with pickled ramps. They do a great job with the ramps. The fish was filleted and then served. It was well cooked but a tad bland. We also had some grilled asparagus on the side, tis the season. The best of the veggies was the small carrots and sugar snap peas which were cooked in something that made them taste almost sweet and savory at the same time. Really yummy.
Dessert was cupcakes for the crew. They came from Barbuto. I don't know if the pastry chef made them or they brought them in from another place but they were excellent. The cupcakes were moist with a super dense milk chocolate frosting.
It was a really nice evening, a celebration of someone's bday. The place was hopping. The food was good but the biggest issue was the noise. When I went to the bathroom, the sound dropped off immediately when I left the kitchen. Just something to keep in mind for parties there in the future.