Like a message in a bottle drifts until it is found: Culinary Centerfold tasted the menu at Barbalu after it weathered Storm Sandy. And the message was clear: Old Seaport New York was back and stronger than ever: and Barbalu was at the forefront of that message in Italian cuisine. Barbalu had been operating out of a small section of their destroyed space, just to keep doors open: but restaurant owners Stefano Barbagallo and Adriana Luque gave me a guided tour of what is now the full restaurant with a dining room with a wall to wall vaulted skylight. They changed the name from Barbarini Alimentari to Barbalu: a blended name to represent their love for each other and the restaurant. They are truly a lovely couple and love is felt in every dish at Barbalu.
Culinary Centerfold was thrilled to be part of the reopening of Barbalu and looked forward to some Italian bliss on a plate. Our first tasting was the Mozarella Di Bufala and Eggplant Caponatina. The golden raisins , pignoli nuts and roasted eggplant were divine under the oversized mozarella. This definitely needed two to finish it. I love how Barbalu gave us something different than the traditional tomatoes and basil appetizer. The mozarella was so moist, soft and flavorful: I had to ask if they make it form scratch. Adriana said that it is outsourced, but that it is made fresh daily from that source. I have to say it is thus far, the best fresh mozarella dish I have ever had.
Mozarella DI Bufala and Eggplant Caponatina
Next plate Barbalu presented was the Roasted Shrimp, Cannellini Beans, Red Onion and Celery Salad. Now, those who know me...know I despise shrimp: but Barbalu's technique, flavor and love put into this plate, changed my mind. They slice the baby shrimp and grill it, completely changing the texture, which made it welcoming to my palette. Barbalu did such a fabulous job with this, it inspired me to try shrimp at other restaurants. But, Barbalu is still the only place I like to eat shrimp and the only place I have found to do it right. You absolutely must try it.
Grilled Shrimp, Cannellini Beans, Red Onion, and Celery Salad
Now thank goodness I brought a good friend to this private tasting, because Adriana just kept the dishes coming! Although, I welcomed everyone of them. And thankfully I wore stretchy clothes to accommodate their Italian hospitality and my eyes.
Finally, the course I most awaited arrived: the home made Lamb Meatballs with Mint and Mashed Potatoes. Barbalu's lamb meatballs were moist, well prepared and full of flavor. It was balanced well with the sauce and mashed potatoes. The texture was spot on and even with a full stomach, I fought to finish every last bite. New York is filled with so many Italians restaurants, but this has to be one of my favorites to date. The food is spectacular, reasonably priced, and the staff passionate. Every dish is served with a smile. Alvaro was our server, and he was so pleasant and eager to make sure we were happy and understood the plate. That is a reflection of the owners and we love Barbalu for that.
Lamb Meatballs with Mint and Mashed Potatoes
Before we could leave, Adriana made sure we were given dessert. I shared this beautiful Fruit Tart with my friend: but on any other day, I would gladly finish it myself! It was creamy, fluffy and the pastry just the right texture... with balanced sweetness of the fresh berries.
Barbalu is a hidden treasure in Old Seaport New York and an amazing Italian Restaurant. You can visit Barbalu at 225-227 Front Street, Manhattan, NY. Make sure to let them know Boston Scarlette sent you and try the Mozarella Di Bufala and Eggplant Caponatina!
To reserve a table call 646.918.6565