One of my favorite spots for Italian food in the city is Barbone. Yes, Avenue B can be a little bit of walk over for those not living in that section in the East Village, but this one is worth it. The restaurant has a small, intimate feel, perhaps from the direct interaction the owner has with the patrons every time I have been there. Somehow, the restaurant itself has plenty of room to accommodate a nice number of patrons per evening. They have an outdoor patio area I’ve yet to experience. Perhaps will squeeze that in before the cold arrives to stay.
We began with my favorite of their appetizers, the asparagus fries. With a light wine batter, these are a perfect beginning to the meal. Our group of six was advised to opt for a couple orders of asparagus fries, but our one was plenty for the table. These are in line with the statement that often times simple truly is best.
For the main course, a friend and I split a couple of options, as we were advised both were unique dishes. The duck ravioli was in a red wine and balsamic glaze. I find dishes with wine based sauces are many times either not noticeable or overpoweringly painful. The sauce with the duck ravioli was that perfect balance. The red wine was a perfect compliment to the balsamic, which allowed for the best of the flavor of the duck to shine through. The amount of duck included per pocket of ravioli was on the lighter side, which I found allowed for the sauce to properly balance the sometimes heavy and greasy taste of duck. They also offer an appetizer portion of many of their pastas, which is a welcomed variation from most Manhattan menus.
The other option we went with was the lamb meatballs, which came accented with two types of red peppers atop a couple of large leaves of cabbage. It was simple — only a light, minimal red pepper sauce — and could have been basic and too meaty. However, the lamb was perfectly seasoned and came to life once combined with the peppers. I think this was my favorite of the two, although it would be really close to honestly compare. I am learning though that the upside of this column is more adventurous eating! You should try it. You might be surprised the great things you’ve been missing out on.
As it was my birthday, the staff brought us out a selection of desserts to try. My favorite was definitely the marscapone cheesecake with crushed pistachios. Amazing! The couple scoops of semifreddo, a dish similar to ice cream, was also great. The server brought it out and then dumped a cup’s worth of espresso over. It made for a wonderful treat for the espresso lover. Why end with just a cup of coffee when it can be a la mode? And note while we opted to mix it up and choose our own items, Barbone does have a five course tasting menu starting at $35 per person. Definitely a great value.
Enoteca Barbone – 186 Avenue B (between E11th and E12th) – 212.254.6047