Do you ever just get a hankering for something tasty that stays with you all day (or week) until you finally give in and feed the beast? Yesterday I was haunted by just such a craving for a hot bowl of saucy noodles. I had plans with A-Mac to meet up for tea or a bite to eat after my rehearsal around 4, but as everything ran late, we didn't end up meeting up until about 6. By then, having been in rehearsal since 11am straight, I was starving. We wandered around a bit debating where to go, as my hankering for pasta amped up to epic proportions. We were somewhere along Bleecker when inspiration hit. "Ooh I want you to try that place Barbuto I was telling you about!" said A-Mac. Having walked by the airy corner space many times before, and being quite sure my noodles would be somewhere on that menu, I agreed, and we set off to the west side.
Jonathan Waxman's Barbuto is off on a corner of Washington Street just beyond the Saturday night West Village roving bands of 30-somethings and better yet, just south of the meatpacking's roving bands of 20-somethings. It was a little chilly last night but the wide garage doors were open out onto the street and we sat just inside the walls of the restaurant which was lively but not crowded, with a relaxed vibe. A bowl of olives appeared on the table to help ease my increasing hunger pangs and damn were they good. We decided on a half-carafe of rose (I love when a restaurant offers half-carafes) and I immediately liked our waitress when she recommended the cheaper option.
A-Mac and I quickly decided that though this wasn't one of our planned ahead dinner splurges, now that we were seated and content, there was no reason to not go all out. Anyway, nothing on the menu is above $20, or if I'm lying, there are only a couple of items which are, and not by much. We ordered the shredded brussels sprouts salad, the fresh pappardelle with sausage ragu for me (hurrah!), the signature roast chicken with lemon salsa verde for A-Mac and roasted cauliflower with anchovies and capers to share.
Everything was delicious. The sprouts in the salad were raw which was suprising and crunchy with a little bite, the cauliflower was salty and tangy and the chicken was moist and lemony with crisp skin.
But the pasta. Oh, the pasta. It was simple--just broad fresh noodles with plenty of sausage in a light tomato sauce and a sprinkle of cheese. Miraculously, it was EXACTLY what I had imagined when my stomach first fixated on a bowl of pasta for dinner. It was steaming and on the salty side and so so satisfying.
I highly recommend treating yourself to a spontaneous nice dinner. Maybe I spent a little more money than I had anticipated that night. Maybe it tasted a little better than it would have had I not been so hungry or so happy to be sitting in flattering light, on a quiet village street, for an overdue chat with a great friend. But that was the best, most satisfying and comforting bowl of pasta I have had in a long time.
I have no pictures to offer since this was a spontaneous culinary experience. But I can offer you this recipe from a profile of Jonathan Waxman in Gourmet. It looks pretty close to the light crunchy salad we started of with, though I think our version involved bread crumbs instead of walnuts....
Ripped directly from Gourmet...
Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad
1 1/2 lb Brussels sprouts (preferably on the stalk), any discolored leaves discarded and stems left intact
1 cup walnuts (3 1/2 oz), lightly toasted
2 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino Romano, or to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Holding each Brussels sprout by stem end, cut into very thin slices using slicer. Toss in a bowl to separate layers.
Lightly crush walnuts with your hands and add to Brussels sprouts along with cheese, oil, and lemon juice, then toss to combine. Season with pepper.Love,
P.S. My cab driver was playing Foreigner on my ride home. What a night.