Barbuzzo (110 S. 13th Street) is my favorite restaurant in the city at the moment. Along with Lolita and Bindi, Barbuzzo is part of the group of restaurants owned by Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran, who were responsible for a lot of the growth and great things happening in the Midtown Village neighborhood.
Barbuzzo has garnered national attention during the past few months, first with a 2011 James Beard Award nomination for Best New Restaurant and then with recognition from Frommer’s as one of the “Ten Best New Urban Restaurants in the Country.” And, Philadelphia Magazine just named it “Best New Restaurant” and “Best Dessert” in its annual “Best of Philly” issue. So, you will definitely want to make a reservation if you are planning to go. Or, you can take a chance and see if you can snag a table at the bar or chef’s counter, overlooking the open kitchen. Like most of the restaurants I’ve told you about lately, Barbuzzo is tiny, and you’ll be sitting quite close to your neighbor (maybe that’s why they chose a sardine for their logo).
The restaurant serves Mediterranean small plates, made with local ingredients. I love this style of eating, especially with a group of people, because you can order a bunch of different stuff to share. Serving sizes are slightly larger than typical tapas places—the servers generally recommend two plates per person. Overall, it’s pretty reasonably priced, with snacks starting at $3, and the most expensive main course topping out around $20.
This past week, I had dinner there for the third time, and I came up with this list of the things I heart about Barbuzzo (in no particular order), based on my visits:
- Pizza—Made in the restaurant’s wood burning oven, Barbuzzo’s pizza has a thin, crispy crust and unique toppings. I’ve had the Pear with gorgonzola sauce; the Fico, which includes fig, gorgonzola, prosciutto, arugula, and walnuts, and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses, and the Asparago, topped with asparagus, pancetta, truffle, and egg. There are a lot of flavors on each pizza, but they balance, rather than compete with each other.
- Meatballs—Made with a mixture of short rib and pork and stuffed with caciocavallo cheese. They are served in a rich tomato sauce and topped with more melted cheese. The sauce has just the right combination of garlic and oregano, and the meatballs are so tender they can be pulled apart with a fork. Tastes just like what we make in my family.
- Gnocchi—Pan-seared, light, fluffy dumplings, topped with crispy prosciutto. On my spring/summer visits, the pasta was served with a mushroom and tomato sauce; in the winter, the sauce had caramelized apples and truffles. It’s not overly drenched in sauce, so you can appreciate all of the flavors.
- Sheep’s Milk Ricotta—A cloud of ricotta, served at room temperature so it’s easy to spread on grilled bread, topped with olive oil, herbs and course salt. Simple, but so tasty. This is one the “snacks and spreads” section of the menu, but I could make a meal out of this.
- Basil Lemonade—This is probably just on the summer menu, but I would drink it all year round. It’s exactly what the name says, plus vodka, served in a mason jar. Simple and refreshing. As a note, Barbuzzo is the only restaurant in Safran/Turney’s group that has a liquor license. You can BYOB, but you’ll be charged a corkage fee.
- Bronzino—Grilled, topped with pesto and wild mushrooms, and served on top of farro. Simple and delicious.
- Salted Caramel Budino—This is the dessert that Philadelphia Magazine singled out, and for good reason. It’s a velvety smooth butterscotch pudding, served over a dark chocolate crust, topped with a salted caramel sauce, tangy crème fraiche, and garnished with more sea salt. For me, it’s the perfect combination of salty and sweet. You will be ridiculously full after dinner, but I guarantee that somehow, you’ll manage to eat every last bite (in fact, you may have to stop yourself from licking the dish clean). I just discovered that you can order these for pick up by the half-dozen on the restaurants website. That could be trouble. It even looks like the perfect dessert, see?
Hopefully, my two cents on what’s awesome about this restaurant will help you narrow things down if you go. But, if you want to make things even easier on yourself, maybe just to ask for one of everything on the menu, so that you don’t have to make any tough decisions.