When an iconic restaurant suddenly closes, how should we send farewells? I’ve of course had a fair number of great restaurants in NYC that sadly closed, and didn’t always have the opportunity to stop by for one last meal. When I heard of Barbuto, the seminal place from Jonathan Waxman that set the tone of West Village dining culture with its seasonal approach to Italian cooking, closing, I realized that I had been to the restaurant only once before, although I did like my experience very much that I gave 8.5 KenScale. And I was eager to find out whether I will remember the restaurant the way I had when I visited it several years ago. My wife Jun had always been to the restaurant before (although not with me at that time) and she seemed to have a generally favorable memory as well. Since the restaurant was closing down at the end of May, we decided to check out one last time on a Sunday evening. As Barbuto doesn’t accept reservations for parties of fewer than four people, there was already a long line forming before the opening at 5:30 p.m. but we were fortunately seated right away on a table overlooking the kitchen. So, will Jun and I terribly miss the restaurant? Unfortunately, after our meal, we both concluded no.

Burrata with Ramps, Wild Mushrooms, Red Oak Lettuce and Chervil
Chitarra con Capesante with Ramps, Crème Fraiche and Scallops

It could very well be the case that our taste regarding Italian food has changed since our memorable trip to Italy together three years ago. Still, Jun and I found the seasoning at Barbuto to be uneven at best, starting with the burrata with ramps, wild mushrooms and red oak lettuce that had nice texture but at moments felt a little too aggressive in the flavor. Maybe I’m being spoiled by awesome pasta dishes that Jun cooks at home at least once every two weeks but it was hard to find anything special about the chitarra pasta with ramps, crème fraiche and scallops. By no means a bad dish with nice texture to the noodle but I’ve had more fond memories with the gnocchi and bucatini that I had at the restaurant on my first visit.

Pollo al Forno – JW Chicken and Salsa Verde
Asparagi – Asparagus, Horseradish Aioli and Espelette

Even the iconic chicken with salsa verde seems to have lost its touch a bit. I certainly expected a meat that was more moist last time but for some reason the texture felt a little bit rough this time, and the overall flavor was again somewhat uneven. For dessert, while Jun did enjoy tiramisu, I wondered how much better it would’ve been if it had come out more moist. The salted caramel gelato was a very good one, though.

Tiramisu with Ladyfingers, Mascarpone, Cocoa
Salted Caramel Gelato

As noted above, with the restaurant closing, the line of crowds looking to get the last taste of Barbuto should only be growing until the end of May. There are standard Italian-centric wine and cocktail lists to complement the meal. If there is one thing I will miss about Barbuto, it is certainly the casual vibe in a warehouse setting that represents the quintessential ethos of West Village dining. My last trip to the restaurant started to make me wonder: if a restaurant is closing soon, is it worth stopping by for one last meal? Perhaps the declining quality of the kitchen is one reason that a restaurant closes. And when a restaurant announces the shutter, it will likely impact the morale of kitchen staff as well. In any event, I will probably reassess whether I should send my farewells to closing restaurants in the first place.

KenScale: 7.5/10 (Jun’s Score: 7.5/10)

  • Creativity: 7.5/10
  • Execution: 7.5/10
  • Ingredients: 7.5/10
  • Flavor: 7.0/10
  • Texture: 8.0/10
  • Value: 7.5/10

Address: 775 Washington Street, New York, NY 10014

Telephone: (212) 924-9700


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