I like New York in June - how about you? Actually, it’s not too shabby in August either, if you hit the right day, and we picked a peach…perfect weather for a Saturday lunch at Chef Jonathan Waxman’s sidewalk bistro, Barbuto.
Garage doors flexed open in a curved band of metal, forming a pseudo-awning, and the concrete, side-entrance made me wonder if we there for an oil change or lunch. But grease monkey met glamour bar within steps, where Waxman blended comfort and class to prove that New York edge could still have some heart.
‘Top’ billing: Dishcloths were folded napkins against stainless steel tabletops and my mom squinted over their metallic glare, asking, “Is that Gail Simmons from Top Chef?” When Waxman emerged from the kitchen in a pink polo shirt to welcome her, it was official. I wanted to throw my fork in the middle of them (an accidentally slip of the hand, of course) and partake in their culinary quips, but that’s why Manhattan is Manhattan (and not LA)…people can live their lives as they please because others respect when you don’t want to be noticed.
Cuc-ktails: Never a fan of cucumber, I found myself slurping this muddled veggie over ice with gin, club soda and lemon. I couldn’t imagine a more satisfying refresher on a hot, summer day. I’d be pickled by the time I left.
Brunch Crunch: Time to focus on food. We already had our appetite set on some of Barbuto’s signature items like chickpea fritters and the forever-raved-about gnocchi, but after noticing that half the menu involved eggs, I realized brunch was our only option.
New game plan: Crispy potatoes were absolutely awesome, sautéed with scallions (and probably a stick of butter.) Home fries with the emphasis on “home”…me likey a lot.
Breakfast pizza: Pancetta was ground almost like sausage, blanketing the dough with its salty swagger beneath a few fried eggs and swirled with Waxman’s featured chimichurri sauce. But the chimichurri was saltiness squared with an oily finish that cancelled out its fresh herbs.
Pancetta (salty) x chimichurri (salty) = saltlick (I wished I could go and ask Gail what she thought).
JW Chicken: Waxman’s signature simplicity was showcased with his chicken, whose aroma alone breathed exotic while providing the homespun feel of grandma’s house. But again, robust seasonings of cumin and cinnamon were overpowered by the oily chimichurri.
Dear Mr. Waxman,
Here are the facts, man.
I have a hunch
I’d like the lunch,
But in no hurry
Due to chimichurri
Though I still think
You and your drinks
Are cool as cucumbers