photo by Jeffrey Prehn
Jonathan Waxman had no intention of cooking Italian food in the meatpacking district; were it not for a coercive partner, he might have brought his simple, grounded Californian cuisine to the Upper West Side. It was a fortunate twist of fate that Barbuto landed here, though: While it’s a good bet the chef would have lasted in any neighborhood, this white-washed, understated restaurant just celebrated 10 years of hosting boisterous, poultry-mad downtown crowds. The à la carte menu brings numerous delights like greenmarket specials and seasonal bruschetta, but the restaurant also offers a $65 family-style meal for groups of six to 10, including Waxman’s justly famous roast chicken. The chef admits his pollo al forno will haunt him for the rest of his life; he has been serving some variation on it since his days at Santa Monica institution Michael’s, a restaurant he helped open in 1979. At Barbuto, the burnished bird arrives crowned with a vibrant salsa verde that perfumes the table. For a man whose fate is inextricably entwined with a flightless creature, Waxman soared to the heights of celebrity chefdom long before the term solidified in the public consciousness.