New York

Barbuto embodies chef Jonathan Waxman’s Californian style of cooking. Photo courtesy of Barbuto

The One Who Keeps the BookNew York

How to Get Into Barbuto

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Since Barbuto first opened in 2004, scoring a table at Jonathan Waxman’s restaurant has been considered a treasured feat by New York diners. It’s not difficult to understand why: Chef-owner Jonathan Waxman’s enduring career stretches back to California’s “food revolution” in the early 70s. And then, of course, there’s that highly covetable roast chicken that predates the city’s current obsession with Wenwen’s BDSM chicken.

When the original Barbuto shuttered in 2019 due to the building’s sale, Waxman’s loyal clientele worried whether the James Beard Award-winning chef would be able to find a proper new space. He did, in a spot just a few blocks away from the West Village original, where Barbuto opened up again in February 2020. In October 2021, following a temporary pandemic-induced closure for a year-and-a-half, Barbuto 2.0 fully settled into its sunny new spot, which feels as familiar as a trusted old friend and has views overlooking the Hudson.

Waxman’s memorable Italian American dishes, such as the signature roast chicken with salsa verde, seasonal gnocchi, and a flawless carbonara, remain on the menu, much to the relief of longtime regulars. What also hasn’t changed? The high demand for getting a reservation. We checked in with general manager Evan Campbell on how diners can snag a coveted seat at Barbuto in this latest installment of The One Who Keeps The Book.

Resy: What’s the size difference from the original Barbuto?

Evan Campbell: It’s basically double the size. And there’s so much more space in between the tables. It’s very spread out and everyone has room, whether you are at the bar or at the chef’s tables which are completely on the other side of the room.

Is there anything that you miss about the former space?

I miss the garage doors that fronted the old space and I think a lot of patrons do, too. We get asked all the time about when are we going to install garage doors. We might do garage doors at some point. Even without them we still get such fantastic light with all of the windows here. You just don’t get that natural air inside. But we do have outdoor seating and so that helps.

How many seats are there in the new Barbuto?

Upstairs, fully seated, which would include the bar, outdoors and the two chefs tables, we seat around 145. Then we have the private dining space downstairs that will officially open in mid- to late September.

Tell us about that private dining space.

The space will be called Waxie’s Private Dining Room, which is named after chef Waxman. We can seat 40 for a full seated dinner, and we’ll do what we do upstairs with our chef’s tables: a four-course prix-fixe tasting menu. We’ll have a cocktail hour, the seated dinner, and then end at the bar. For standing cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres we can accommodate 75 to 80 people. It’s such a great space, with all the original brick from the building. It has its own music system and bar. We will open the book for downstairs in mid-September.

And how many people can the chef’s tables upstairs accommodate?

We can seat 12 at the table directly inside the kitchen, and 20 at the one outside the kitchen. All of the large party bookings and private dining downstairs bookings have to be booked through reservationists or one of my managers. The chef’s tables books open 30 days out.

What’s the best seat in the house?

Next to the western windows, which overlook the water. Actually any of the tables by the windows are really nice. The sunset along West Street is really beautiful. You can also see Little Island and all the boats going by, and people jogging or walking their dogs.

What You Need to Know

The dining room of Barbuto
The new Barbuto location doesn’t have those same garage doors as it once did before, but it’s much more spacious. Photo by Jen Davidson for Resy

Plan Ahead: Resys drop exactly one month ahead at 11 a.m.

Walk On In: The restaurant leaves about a quarter of its seats open for walk-ins, and all outdoor tables are reserved for walk-ins. If the communal chef’s tables aren’t booked up by large parties, those are also reserved for walk-ins, too.

The Layout: The restaurant can seat 145, and will soon have a new private dining space that fits anywhere from 40 (seated) to 80 people (standing room).

Barbuto’s bucatini carbonara is always on the menu at lunch. At dinner, it’s not on the menu but you can always ask for it. Photo by Jen Davidson for Resy

Pro Tip: Give the restaurant a call to see if there are any last-minute cancellations day of (especially on Tuesday or Sundays). And consider stopping by for lunch instead of dinner.

Prime Time: Thursdays to Saturdays from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Must-Orders: kale salad; seasonal gnocchi; the chicken; rosemary potatoes; crispy pork stuffed meatball; and the bucatini carbonara (always on the lunch menu; off-menu for dinner).

When do reservations drop on Resy?

Resy reservations drop 30 days out at 11 a.m.

How quickly do reservations get booked up?

Pretty quickly, especially for our prime time, which is Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night seatings. The 7 to 8:30 p.m. seats go within an hour.

Are there any seats reserved for walk-ins?

Yes, there are several options for walk-ins. We leave about 25% of the tables for walk-in use. Then there is the whole bar which has 20 seats, and all of our outdoor tables, which are also for walk-in only. If you have a reservation, and you arrive and you want to dine outdoors you can request it.

What’s the typical wait time for walk-ins?

It depends on the time and the day, but on a Thursday through Saturday night it could be two to two-and-a-half hours. Sometimes if you come in right at opening there will be no wait, or depending on the day it could be 30 minutes max. We would put you on the waitlist and text you when the table is ready.

Can guests enjoy a cocktail at the bar while waiting?

Sure, though I would say 85 to 90% of people who sit at the bar are sitting for a full meal.

How many covers will you do on your busiest nights?

About 330 to 350.

Barbuto's roast chicken. Food and interior photos by Jen Davidson, courtesy of Barbuto
Barbuto’s famous roast JW chicken. Photo by Jen Davidson, courtesy of Barbuto
Barbuto's roast chicken. Food and interior photos by Jen Davidson, courtesy of Barbuto
Barbuto’s famous roast JW chicken. Photo by Jen Davidson, courtesy of Barbuto

When is the easiest time to snag a reservation?

I would say the easiest time to get a reservation at dinner would be Tuesdays or Sundays. If you call us in the morning on those days when our phone lines open at 11 a.m. there’s a good chance you could get a reservation for that night.

How long is your Notify list on average?

Between 800 and 1,000 names. And we do use the Notify list, so if anything opens, you will get notified right away. I think one big mistake that people make with Notify is putting their name in from 5 p.m. to closing time, as opposed to a specific time. If you just put up a two- or three-hour window, there’s a better chance of getting notified. It’s also good to keep in mind that a lot of people drop off the night before or the day before because we have a 24-hour cancellation policy.

Any other tips for snagging a table?

Come for lunch! Lunch is really the best way; it tends to be little bit more mellow then. Saturday and Sunday brunch are definitely busier than Monday through Friday lunches, but lunches are generally easier to make a reservation for.

Also, a good thing to know is that on nights that we don’t have large parties booked at the chef’s tables, they will be used as communal tables for walk-ins. And we can sit two or three parties at them with plenty of room between. They are typically always booked on weekends and more likely to be used as communal seating on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights.

Barbuto's pistachio cake
Barbuto’s pistachio cake. Photo by Ken Goodman, courtesy of Barbuto
Mushroom pizza from Barbuto
Mushroom pizza. Photo by Ken Goodman, courtesy of Barbuto

It’s Friday night at 7 p.m. What’s happening? Can you set the scene?

There’s a bit of a party vibe in here, especially when there are larger tables booked. The bar is usually at least two or three people deep and the whole restaurant is buzzing. The music is playing and food is rushing out of the kitchen. It’s fun, high energy, and casual, not stuffy at all.

What kind of music are you playing Friday night at 7 p.m.?

We always stick a little bit to classic rock. Sometimes we’ll play top hits. We try and keep it as background. During lunch it’s a little bit louder, because you don’t have as much of the buzz of the evening. During the day, we’ll generally play something a little bit more recent, contemporary. Still, music doesn’t dominate the room.

I know chef Waxman is also a musician. Does he ever have any input as to what you’re playing?

He likes to come down to the private dining room and listen to his classical jazz music. He does have input as far as when he doesn’t like something on the playlist.

What are the must-order dishes at Barbuto?

Well, the standard Jonathan Waxman dinner is kale salad with pecorino, breadcrumbs and anchovy vinaigrette; seasonal gnocchi, which has cherry tomatoes, corn and basil at the moment; and that classic JW chicken and rosemary potatoes, always. I also steer people toward the crispy pork stuffed meatball. It’s a great addition to the menu and nice to share. We also have a bucatini carbonara. It’s available only at lunch on the menu, and is available off the menu for dinner — that’s a little secret that I like to keep. But our menu is also so seasonal. We always have seasonal bruschetta, which is a favorite go-to, especially for a large table. And you can never go wrong with any of our pastas.

How about drinks? What do you recommend?

The 1919 is really popular. It’s a play on an Aperol spritz with grapefruit, prosecco, and cappelletti in place of Aperol. I think it’s a nice summer drink. We also always have a Bellini stagionale, a seasonal Bellini. Right now it is blackberry and prosecco — really light and fresh. And then the classic cocktail here is the JW Margarita. Chef is obsessed with margaritas. So we actually make our orange combier liqueur in house; our pastry chef makes it. And like our food menu, our cocktail menu changes up a little with the seasons as well.

 

Barbuto is open from noon to 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, and from noon to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends.

 

Kathleen Squires is an award-winning food and travel writer and documentary producer based in New York City. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Follow Resy, too.