Just getting a reservation at Barbuzzo can be a chore. Tables are booked up weeks in advance. Once you're in, you have to then deftly navigate thru the narrow room - a series of four-tops on one side, the open kitchen on the other - to get to your designated table. Your efforts will be rewarded though. And even if you forgot to make the reservation a month ago, you can always try snagging a couple seats at the bar like we did late on a Tuesday night. You get access to the whole menu, plus your bartender is always at your beckon call!
There is good reason landing a table at Barbuzzo is harder than getting into Dorsia. Marcie Turner is doing things with Italian food that will make your mouth water and your stomach rumble. This is not the refined pastas and fine dining of Vetri. Nor is it the veal parm and chicken saltambucca of hole in the wall South Philly joints. This is something else entirely. Forward looking dishes that are exciting and unique, yet at the same time comforting and accessible. Grilled shrimp, smoked in-house, alongside a crispy mushroom polenta. Fava bean arancini. Roasted corn agnolotti. The Fico pizza with fresh figs, gorgonzola dolce, walnuts, prosciutto, arugula and pomegranate molasses. This is so much more than spaghetti & meatballs.
sheeps milk ricotta
You'll likely not find a better appetizer for $10 anywhere in the city. Quickly grilled slices of crusty bread. A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. A delectably rich and salty scoop of fresh sheep's milk ricotta, kissed with vin cotta vinegar. You spread the cheese over the bread, watching it seep into every nook and cranny. At first bite, you are transported to a Tuscan village overlooking a deep valley, lush with olive trees. It slowly dawns on you that you are sitting on a bar stool on 13th Street. You then plot ways to fend off any would be takers on your ricotta like Katniss defending the Cornucopia. It's totally worth fighting the Careers for.
A 'simple' bruschetta of grilled foccaccia, melted mozzarella and an heirloom tomato salad with basil and balsamic vineger. Simple is a misnomer. So many brilliant flavors mixing into a harmonious Italian opera of taste.
Meatballs have been a trend for a while now in this city (see: Marabella Meatball Co on 12th & Walnut - dedicated solely to the subject). And any good red sauce joint south of Bainbridge should have a reputable ball. Barbuzzo has taken the humble little meat orb to a different place; stuffing them with caciocavallo (an Italian cheese similar to mozzarella) that oozes out when you cut into them. The meat is a grind of beef shortrib and pork, blended with oregano & some spicy chilies, then topped with an other-worldly red sauce and some shredded pecorino. Quite simply the best meatballs I've ever had. There is nothing elegant about these. It's is all about substance, passion for authenticity and devotion to the craft. These things have more heart than Rudy Ruettiger.
I've become a sucker for sardines. The mere mention of them makes my mouth begin to water and my wife's eyes start to roll. Smokey. Salty. Tasting of the sea. The quintessential dish of any coastal Mediterranean village worth it's gills. If you can get over the whole 'scales & tail' thing, you discover an intensely flavorful little fish. Served over a mix of immense fava beans, shreds of crispy bacon and drizzled with olive oil, the strong flavors play off each other and elevate each other. Each bite is more interesting that the last.
|salted caramel budino|
The best dessert in the city. Seriously. A layer of chocolate cookie crumbles on the bottom, reminiscent of Oreo's. A hearty layer of budino (basically Italian pudding). Vanilla bean caramel. Sea salt sprinkled ever so lovingly. Some whipped cream. A dusting of dark chocolate powder. It's everything a dessert should be. Sweet. Salty. Intense. Airy. Satisfying on so many levels. If you get nothing else, come here just for this.
The constant crowds are a sign of the success here. Yes, it's annoying that you have to wait weeks for a table if you'd like to eat after 4pm. But the food here is incredible. Drinks are strong. Service is swift. Show up after 10:30 on a school night and check the late night menu. Beers for $3, sangria for $4 and a changing lineup of $10 plates. All these people can't be wrong. In fact, they are very, very right.
Food Baby Rating: Triplets!
110 South 13th Street