The West Village is full of places that are always going to be packed. Some of them will be packed because they were featured on a TV show 20 years ago, or because tourists like cupcakes. Others will be packed because they show sports on TV or offer bottomless brunch or have tables where you can play shuffleboard or ping pong while listening to live jazz in a basement, which is a thing people apparently like to do.
But many of the best places in the West Village will be packed because they serve good wine and pasta in exceptionally pleasant spaces on cobblestone streets. Places like Barbuto.
Barbuto has become a West Village institution. Open for years, it’s still hard to get a reservation or walk in without a wait. They’ve threatened to close multiple times, but we have a hard time seeing that happen any time soon. Even if they just reheated frozen pizza and put it on their menu, people would still come here for one of the best restaurant spaces in the neighborhood.
If we had to venture a guess, we’d say that for as long as this place is open, it’s going to keep serving roast chicken and kale salad - the two dishes Barbuto is best known for. The menu is seasonal, kind-of-Italian, kind-of-American, and almost everyone you bring here is going to be very happy with it.
We will say that if you’ve eaten here many times over the years, or if you eat in a lot of seasonal Italian restaurants, you might not be as excited about Barbuto as you were a few years back. Maybe that’s because Barbuto’s roast chicken and pasta isn’t quite good as it used to be, or maybe it’s because other restaurants keep getting better at making roast chicken and pasta - although it’s probably a bit of both. The food here is still good, even if it’s just not quite in that class of NYC’s greatest Italian restaurants.
That said, unless you’re setting out to eat something you’ve never tried before, or to eat the best Italian food in the city, you’re not going to be disappointed. Barbuto is still one of the first places we think of when the weather gets good and we want to pretend like we’re on vacation. The big, industrial corner space has garage doors for walls, and when they open them, the whole place feels like it’s outside. When you’re sitting here, drinking wine, eating pasta, and enjoying a noticeably clean-smelling breeze, you won’t want to be anywhere else in the West Village. Even if you really do enjoy listening to live jazz while playing ping pong.
On any given night at Barbuto, we’d put the chicken-to-human ratio at 1:2. It’s a good thing to share, but the last time we tried it, it wasn’t as crispy or flavorful as it had been in the past.
This is also on every table, and it should be on yours. It’s basically cheese and breadcrumbs with kale, and it’s perfect.
The pastas change seasonally, but there’s always a gnocchi dish on the menu. Order it. They pan-fry the pasta so it gets a little crispy on the outside, and it will make you wish you had come up with this idea yourself.
Technically only on the brunch menu, this is one of the best Carbonara dishes we’ve had in NYC. Even better news: they’ll make it for you at dinner if you ask (nicely).
Pizzas are another thing Barbuto only does at brunch. We’re not in the business of ranking NYC’s best breakfast pizzas, but if we were, Barbuto’s would be in the top of the class.