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When Dinner With Friends Shook the World

Polaroids, pay phones, classified ads, two vast and trunkless legs of stone — the past is a back catalog full of shit the internet made obsolete. Am I of the last generation who remembers what it felt like to be alone? To be in a room with no one to chat with, no one to snap at, with no hangouts and time gone slack? And if so, then is that generation the last to feel the hot-shower sigh of relief when, by the caroming of cosmic bumper cars, we find our people and realize we are not in fact alone? Today it seems so easy to connect. There are so many apps, so many platforms, so many places to log into.

If the gerrymandered channels of social media are to be believed, today’s chefs — and today’s eaters — are woven together in the warp and weft of likes, emoji, and hashtags. Never have the chefs been so united. Yet never has their unification felt so transactional.

Michael McCarty, Jonathan Waxman, Chef Dan Kluger and Andrew Friedman at Loring Place, April 23rd, 2018

On a recent spring evening at Loring Place in Greenwich Village, this state of affairs is on display. “There are probably three dinners like this somewhere in the city tonight,” says Andrew Friedman, the bright-eyed, bearded author of the new book Chefs, Drugs and Rock & Roll: How Food Lovers, Free Spirits, Misfits and Wanderers Created a New American Profession, a voluminous oral history of American chefs in the 1970s and ’80s. We are gathered in the downstairs dining room of chef Dan Kluger’s quietly bonkers-good restaurant on West 8th Street to celebrate two things.

The first is the publication of Friedman’s book. The author is an exhaustive researcher and a deliberate writer. He runs a blog called Toqueland, subtitled “Inside the World of Professional Chefs,” and has a podcast, Andrew Talks to Chefs, in which he talks to chefs. Friedman is an inveterate story collector, the Studs Terkel of the culinary world, the Legs McNeil of fine dining. His new book is a 480-page, in-the-weeds birth story of American cuisine, with all the mothers and fathers and doulas and midwives accounted for.

Menu from The Stanford Court

The second thing we’re celebrating at Loring Place is the 35th anniversary of the legendary (to some) Stanford Court Dinner, an event that, to quote Friedman’s book, “changed everything and brought rising chefs from across the country together for the first time.” The original dinner took place in San Francisco on May 4, 1983. It was organized by Michael McCarty of the restaurant Michael’s, in Santa Monica, California, with help from his chef, a young hippie named Jonathan Waxman who looked like he stepped from a Pontormo painting. Alice Waters made a garden salad, natch; Jeremiah Tower made a pecan pastry with chocolate-and-sabayon sauce; Larry Forgione, of Brooklyn’s River Café, made a terrine of smoked American fish “with their respective caviars.” The Southeast was present in the person of Paul Prudhomme, who cooked his signature blackened redfish on piping-hot skillets over charcoal grills on the fire escape, sending smoke into the San Francisco air; Mark Miller, of Fourth Street Grill in Berkeley, made quail; and two guys from the Midwest — Bradley Ogden of American Café in Kansas City, and Jimmy Schmidt of London Chop House in Detroit — stuffed a rack of lamb with greens from Missouri and made a gratin of wildroot vegetables, fiddlehead ferns, and cattail sprouts. It was the first time in the history of American fine dining that chefs so far-flung had conclaved, the first time they had poked their heads above the plains to see the other prairie dogs. It wasn’t like there was no American culinary vernacular developing. But, as Friedman puts it, standing in front of the room and conjuring up a distant past, “The coasts didn’t know much about the other coast, or care.”

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Save for the yellowed paper and serif type, the menu — copies of which are distributed tonight along with the book — wouldn’t look out of place today. The chefs, however, have aged and flourished, each having gone on to make a mark in the annals of cuisine. At the dinner tonight are the wizened, thicker versions of the young men who were part of that first dinner. Michael McCarty is here with his wife, an artist named Kim McCarty. We New Yorkers may recognize Michael’s as the feeding trough for the last of the media tycoons. Back when magazines were swollen with tumescent mastheads, it was where the top names ate, and the fourth estate liked to play a parlor game, like tasseomancy or Kremlinology, to divine the internecine power struggles of the media by observing who sat where.

Larry Forgione and Alice Waters contributed dishes to the meal

But in its hometown of Santa Monica, Michael’s has been known not so much for its crowd or courtyard but for its ambitious menu. And 35 years ago, McCarty was a young restaurateur, fresh from training in France with the idea that, fuck it, American cuisine should be celebrated. (At the time, everyone slouched toward Escoffier.) In 1981, McCarty, along with Julia Child, the winemakers Dick Graff and Robert Mondavi, and others, had founded the American Institute of Wine and Food in order to promote and — let’s face it — build a market for American product. It took two years to organize the dinner that would be called “An American Celebration,” and it fell to Waxman, McCarty’s chef, to corral the kitchen talent. Tonight at Loring Place, it’s hard to imagine Waxman as anything but the grizzly éminence grise sitting at the end of the table. But he was young once too. “We had no fucking clue if the dinner was going to be a success,” he says of his efforts at the time. “We had to send letters, that we wrote on typewriters, through the postal service!”

According to all those present, both the postal and dinner service came through. That epochal meal had introduced the 400-odd gourmets — who had paid $150 in 1983 dollars for nine courses paired with American wines (about $380 today) — to the emergence of American fine dining cuisine. More importantly, all the prairie dogs came out and saw they were not alone.

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Today, so much of what and how we eat is presaged by that two-page menu, from Waters’s nonchalant “garden salad” to the locavore organic veggie-forward forage-friendly wildroot vegetables and cattail sprouts of Ogden and Schmidt’s dish. I think all those present would agree that there would be no Loring Place, with its cheerfully resolute focus on ingredient extruded through the American culinary vernacular, without the contagion sparked that night in Nob Hill. And that would be a damn shame, because Dan Kluger has made this one of the best restaurants in New York City.

In Kluger’s hands, Forgione’s terrine is reimagined with cured salmon and foie gras; Waters’s salad becomes a salad taco — salad taco! — with a guajillo and tamarind hot sauce. “I’ve never totally loved blackened fish,” admits Kluger, so he turned Prudhomme’s blackened redfish into a brown butter–basted sea bass with a blackening spice. It sits pretty on a Dungeness crab salad. And so it goes: Miller’s marinated quail becomes wood-grilled duck with Indian warming spice; the rack of lamb becomes a loin of lamb with the Missouri greens transmogrified into a hazelnut and mustard green pesto. The fiddlehead ferns abide. Tower’s dessert arrives as a delicate chocolate mousse with shavings of candied orange. It all feels very now and tastes very good. The dinner’s title is “Food Memories Dinner Series With Andrew Friedman.” That’s a mouthful but you don’t need the memories to enjoy the flavors; you don’t need to know the roots to savor the fruit.

What’s so striking about the mythology of the evening recounted — Genesis 1:1 of American Cuisine — is how much the whole thing hinged on these chefs, working in isolation but in tandem, having found one another. And how much the difficulty of finding one another endowed the relationships with special hard-earned import. McCarty, Waxman, Waters, Tower, Miller, Ogden, Schmidt, and Prudhomme had finally found their people. They were no longer lonely prairie dogs. I thought about that, and about how, 35 years later, there’s not a motherfucker on this earth that I can’t find pretty easily. But though, as Friedman says, this type of collaborative dinner at Loring Place is common enough now, I doubt there will be a dinner like that at the Stanford Court again anytime soon. Because even though everyone is searchable, reachable, and findable all the time, now that trends are fast-moving waves and collaborations as transient as an Instagram story, being alone has never been harder but being lonely never easier.

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Eric Ripert, Mario Batali, Floyd Cardoz and Others Will Say ‘Shame on Sandy’ at Relief Benefit

On Saturday, January 12, My Last Supper and a few big name chefs will join forces to support Sandy relief efforts. But before you grab your elastic waist pants and skip lunch, know this — the evening will run as a variety show with the finger-wagging title, “Shame on Sandy”.

The (totally awesome sounding) event will feature performances by Patrick Stewart, Abigail Breslin, Stephanie March, and Susan Sarandon. The night’s food will be provided by a hugely impressive list that includes Jonathan Waxman, Mario Batali, Floyd Cardoz, and Eric Ripert. All proceeds will directly assist the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, which helps families who were affected by Hurricane Sandy.

To view the full list of attendees or purchase tickets for the event, visit My Last Supper.

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Jonathan Waxman’s Barbuto: A Revisit

Barbuto’s legendary wood-roasted chicken

Named after a beloved dog, whose image appears in line drawing on the shirts of the waiters, Barbuto was a project of chef Jonathan Waxman that occurred in a somewhat fallow period of his career. When it opened in 2004, it was decidedly off the beaten path, a canteen in a West Village photo studio with a wonderful location on bucolic Washington Street, open to the summer breezes off the Hudson a block distant. Early on, the diners were models, photographers, and ad people; eventually the place developed an avid neighborhood clientele.

Noise levels aside, Barbuto might be the city’s greatest summer retreat.

Waxman had been a seminal character in the introduction of California cuisine to NYC, after being chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, his home town, and later at Michael’s in Santa Monica. But it was Jams, opening on East 79th Street in 1984, where he had his greatest influence on the cooking of the city and the nation. There were other chefdoms and consultancies along the way, but Barbuto felt like a sort of retirement for the chef. In the early years, he was often to be seen cooking in the kitchen; not so much now, as he’s become more of a TV personality.

I went with a friend on the evening of the Pride parade, and the colorful tumult on the streets made the open-air premises of the restaurant seem more serene. The place is comfortable–like sitting in a friend’s rather large garage–but the volume level can be deafening. The staff, however–both front of the house and back–is one of the industry’s most efficient. This is a well-run place.

We sampled Waxman’s signature dish, half of a chicken with a nicely browned skin, roasted in the wood-burning oven and gobbed with an Italian salsa verde, which in this case had a touch of lavender in it, not unwelcome. The bird was every bit as good as I remembered it.

Where your chicken is prepared in the open kitchen

Squash blossoms made a nice seasonal starter.

I watched the chicken gal stand by the oven all evening in the open kitchen, and saw her dispatch nearly a dozen of those birds, finishing them by pouring the boiling juices from the baking pan over the skin to enhance its crispness. That chicken, served all alone by itself on the plate, is unforgettable, and there won’t be a morsel left.

We started the meal with squash blossoms, three to a plate and fried in something that seemed like a lighter version of beer batter. No ricotta stuffing, which was fine. We also had an order of oven-roasted potatoes with grated Pecorino and rosemary sprigs. Technically, it’s a contorno–a vegetable accompaniment to the main course–but it functioned spectacularly, and economically, as a starter.

Coming at the same time as the chicken was the spaghetti carbonara (the pasta here called by its more poetic name of “chitarra,” referring to the guitar-like apparatus that’s used to form the pasta). Dotted with generous amounts of pancetta and plenty of cheese, the pasta was one of the two best I’ve had in the past month. The other was the same dish at Rosemary’s.

The amazing cheese-dusted potatoes

Chitarra alla carbonara

For dessert, all we could fit in our stomachs was a flaky lemon-cherry tart served with ice cream. The wine program is expensive, of course, but there are some bargains, and for all bottles you’re given a choice of glass, 500-milliliter carafe, or full bottle. You’d be surprised how easy it is to make do with 500 milliliters instead of the usual 750 milliliters represented by a bottle, and that lowers the cost of your wine choice by one-third. A falanghina from Campani (a white) set us back $24 for 500 milliliters, and, with its minerality, provided a fine foil for both the chicken and the spaghetti.

Dinner for two, with wine, tax, and tip, $125

Barbuto
775 Washington Street
212-924-9700

For dessert, a cherry-lemon crostata, served with ice cream

A corner of the open-air dining room at Barbuto

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Jonathan Waxman to Roll Out Dishes at Rosa Mexicano

Jonathan Waxman of Barbuto was recently appointed “culinary adviser” for Rosa Mexicano and will be rolling out a temporary menu in New York inspired by the time he spent in Baja. Look for a mezcal-tequila cocktail, Miel de Toronja ($13), calamari stuffed with chorizo ($9), and roasted pork-shoulder tacos ($18) along with crab tostadas ($10.50), and fideo with rabbit, chicken thigh, and habanero chile-roasted tomato salsa ($22).

Waxman’s menu will be available from June 7 to July 1 at two Rosa Mexicano locations, Lincoln Center (61 Columbus Avenue at 62nd Street) and First Avenue (1063 First Avenue at 58th Street).

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What’s Jonathan Waxman Up To at Rosa Mexicano?

Enchiladas de mole blanco at Rosa Mexicano

The multi-credentialed Jonathan Waxman — whose career extends from Chez Panisse (Berkeley, 1970s) to Michael’s (Santa Monica, 1980s) to Jams (New York, 1980s) to Barbuto (New York, 2000s) — is often credited with introducing California cuisine to New York, and with being perhaps the country’s first celebrity chef. Lately, he’s become a TV personality as well. But one of the strangest jags his bicoastal career has taken was announced only recently: For the year 2012, he would become a “chef in residence” (whatever that is) at the city’s Rosa Mexicano chain.

Now, Rosa Mexicano was hot shit when it opened 28 years ago on the Upper East Side, but careless expansion across the city and to Washington D.C., and a buttoned-down attitude toward the menu, had long since left the food seeming stale and retrograde. While new forms of south-of-the-border cooking appeared at bodegas and bistros on a daily basis, the cooking of this once-great chain remained hidebound. Not for them were colorful moles, obscure antijitos, and newfangled ceviches. Diners in search of such things were well advised to seek out more modern places like Empellón, Mercadito, and Tacos Morelos — or merely step up to one of the myriad taco trucks blanketing the city.

Thus it was with some excitement that I sat down at Rosa Mexicano’s Union Square bar yesterday at lunch, at work on another story. When I scanned the menu, it didn’t seem all that different. But then a loose piece of paper slipped out with some totally different stuff on it, headlined “Chef’s Menu Additions.”

The thing that caught my eye was something called enchiladas de mole blanco ($15). Mole blanco? Never heard of it. I ordered it immediately. It turned out to be two wonderful, flopped-over enchiladas stuffed with savory shredded beef (and lots of it). Colorfully garnished, they sat in a pool of creamy sauce that tasted powerfully of corn, and to a lesser extent of pine nuts. What a wonderful entrée! It came accompanied with generous bowls of cilantro-decorated short-grain brown rice and pureed black beans mantled with cheese.

I was delighted, and look forward to returning for more specials. The same sheet also listed sliders made with Yucatan-style shredded pork and shrimp tostaditas, neither quite as interesting sounding as the enchiladas. A sign outside offered a Mexican Passover dinner — which may be worth checking out, though I can assure you it’s not kosher.

See Lauren Shockey’s recent interview with Jonathan Waxman.

Waxman’s work

Rosa Mexicano
9 East 18th Street
212-533-3350

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Jonathan Waxman on Why It’s Smart to Get a Business Degree Before a Culinary One: Interview Part 2

Yesterday we spoke with Barbuto chef (and culinary legend) Jonathan Waxman about his new gig as a consulting chef at Rosa Mexicano and his passionate love affair with Mexican food. Today, though, he tells us about what he wished he’d known as a young chef and also give us some date ideas for Valentine’s Day.

You’ve been through a lot of culinary movements, starting with the rise of California cuisine. How would you describe the culinary scene today in New York City?

That’s an interesting question. I think that what’s happening, with the advent of Momofuku, the Dutch, Red Rooster, Torrisi, and Frankies, there’s a real movement towards rusticity and earthiness, which I applaud tremendously. White tablecloth [dining] isn’t as interesting to people anymore. That’s great. Everyone’s embracing it. It’s not just the East Village and that’s really the movement. And I’ve been doing it for 35 years!

Looking back at your career, what do you wish you had known early on?

There are three things I wish I had known. One, how hard it really was. And two, that I should have gotten a business degree before a cooking degree. And I wish somewhere along the line someone had taught me the birds and bees about cooking: all that which I learned and gleaned about seasonality and respect for ingredients. In the beginning it was more about recipes, but it wasn’t about how to pick an orange blossom or know that it’s shrimp season or the beauty of blood-orange season.

Would you encourage an aspiring chef to to go culinary school or not?

Here’s my advice. It’s a double-edge sword. It’s expensive, and chefs don’t make a lot of money. Weigh out the cost benefits. If it’s the right school it can be incredibly beneficial. But you have to to understand you’re not going to be a full-fledged chef right away. Everyone gets out and wants to be a sous-chef or Giada. Put your time in. It’s hours and hours and hours.

How do you go about maintaining a successful, current restaurant in New York?

I think that as a cook or restaurant you have to experience other people’s food, go to markets, and read voraciously, and you have to travel and keep your mind open.

Valentine’s Day is coming up. Besides Barbuto, where would you take a date for a romantic dinner?

If I had the money and ability, I’d go to Le Bernardin. Or the most romantic place is La Grenouille. Or Per Se, and Jean Georges isn’t bad, either. Bouley is one of the prettiest. And if I wanted to be casual, I’d go to Rosa Mexicano.

And if I wanted to cook a romantic meal at home using your cookbook Italian, My Way, what should I make?

Anything with white or black truffles, obviously. I mean, my wife loves when I make the bambini. My wife thinks that’s the best dish in the world.

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Barbuto Chef Jonathan Waxman on His New Gig at Rosa Mexicano and How to Cook the Perfect Chicken

No question that Barbuto chef Jonathan Waxman has seen it all. His career has now spanned several decades, but his fresh, seasonal cuisine is as contemporary as ever. Oft-cited as one of the fathers of New American cuisine, he now has a gig championing food from south of the border. Waxman recently signed on to be a consulting chef for Rosa Mexicano, creating thematic menus with his own signature seasonality. We called him up to learn more about the job and his deep, deep love of Mexican food.

You’re most known for new American cuisine — how did the Rosa Mexicano gig come about?

It came about last year when I was on my way to the Aspen Food and Wine Festival. On the plane was Howard Greenstone, the CEO of Rosa Mexicano. We met and hit it off and chatted about food and philosophy, and business. And he called me up and asked if I wanted to do special menus for the restaurant, and I said absolutely. He liked where I was coming from philosophically and my culinary background.

Have you always been attracted to Mexican cuisine?

I grew up in El Cerrito in California, with Mexican cuisine, Chinese, Italian. … The first recipes I made were either cookies from The Joy of Cooking or Mexican food in Sunset magazine. I opened Buds in the mid-’80s; it had an eclectic menu but a lot of Mexican on it. A kid named Bobby Flay got inspiration there. I’ve been imbued in Mexican culture for a long time. My parents spent vacations in Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta. When I was 12, my mother went to Caesar’s restaurant in Tijuana and brought back all the accoutrements for Caesar salad. I was excited to make it with her, and then she brought out the raw egg and anchovy and I ran out of the room! But I just love the whole culture. My comfort food is a margarita, guacamole and chips, crab enchiladas, and any kind of posole stew.

So what kinds of things will you be doing at the restaurant?

My intention isn’t to reinvent the wheel, but maybe introduce more seasonality and talk about fun things from my perspective. One thing was eclectic cuts. I love eating sweetbreads and tripe and that sort of stuff we don’t embrace in America, and I thought, Let me embrace it. Jewish Passover is so great in the Mexican tradition. We’re going to do a brisket with jicama and chiles. Stuff like that makes a lot of sense. We talked about Baja and doing different tacos and street food — what you’d find in Ensenada or San Felipe. It’s a lot of fun for me, and it’s also a learning curve.

What do you love most about Mexican cuisine?

Street food. That’s where the soul of Mexico is. At the fancy restaurants, you can be almost anywhere. The Spanish influence has been great, but that’s not what we think of when we think Mexican food. It’s when you go to the market and see 100 yards of cactus or huitlacoche. You’ll see red snappers and be like, Oh my God, why can’t we get that stuff here in America?

Any underrated or favorite ingredients?

The beauty of the cooking is that there’s a lot of cross-pollination, and I like that Mexicans love spice and love vegetables and revere sweet and sour things. Tortas and papusas. Anything with corn. I’m a corn whore. I can’t get enough. Flour tortillas aren’t as interesting to me. But in Mexico, they’re now using different flours to make tortillas, like quinoa tortillas.

Do you plan on introducing any Mexican dishes to Barbuto?

No. Though we have it for staff meal. Chilaquiles, enchiladas, or taco day. And when the Kings of Leon were here after their concert, we just did Mexican food. It was make your own tacos.

Are there any foods or ingredients you just can’t stand?

I had a little bit of a problem with the ant larvae in Mexico. I couldn’t wrap my arms around it. And these insects — I don’t know what they were — they were bright red like mini lobsters. They just looked weird to me. I’m pretty good with everything. One of the greatest dishes is menudo. Not just as a hangover food, but one of the most delicious foods. Oh, and eyeballs — I find the texture to be pretty gross, and I am also trying to stay away from endangered species. I don’t eat octopus anymore.

What’s your favorite thing to cook of all time?

Late-night tacos. I get really mad at my wife when corn tortillas aren’t in the fridge. I love different versions, griddled or steamed. I have 10 types of chile salsas in my kitchen. And four ripe avocados waiting for me.

And what about cooking chicken? What’s your secret?

The first and most important is just get a good chicken. Don’t get one that’s too large. A three-pound chicken is perfect for a family of four or five. Secondarily, the oven has to be hot. Four hundred and twenty-five is the perfect temperature. When you take it out of the bag, you have to wash it to get rid of the bag juice, and washing it in hot water gets rid of bacteria. Then you stick it in the pan. I use olive oil and season the chicken properly all over. I can’t emphasize that enough. Literally just put it into a sauté pan. Now, here’s the trick. One, you gotta flip it back and forth. Move it around because ovens aren’t the same. And most importantly, basting. Take the chicken out, take a breath, have some wine, get a spoon and baste that chicken. And don’t overcook it. Three pounds at 12 minutes per pound. So it’ll be done within 36 minutes. Take it out when it’s at 155 degrees at the bone.

That’s it?

And buy a pair of welder’s gloves with tips [instead of pot holders]. They’re cheap and they’ll last forever. The kind with fingers, not mitts.

Check back in tomorrow, when Jonathan looks back over his long career as a chef and gives advice to aspiring cooks.

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Now Hiring: Seymour Burton, Commerce, Pearl Oyster Bar

Photo by Woody Myers

Donatella Arpaia and Chef Michael Psilakis are staffing up at Mia Dona.

A “very trendy pizza place” is coming to Prospect Heights.

Merkato watch: Still soon-to-open, still looking for cooks.

Commerce Restaurant is opening soon on Commerce and Barrow. They’re looking for front-of-house staff.

Seymour Burton is looking for front- and back-of-house staff. We love this place, but don’t tell anyone. If it gets really crowded we’re gonna be pissed!

Pearl Oyster Bar is looking for a second-in-command. If you are a caterer who lives far away, don’t bother.

Provence needs a new lead line cook.

Jonathan Waxman wants to mentor you at Barbuto, or maybe one of his upcoming ventures.

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Shaggy-Dog Story

No one is more closely associated with California cuisine—at least the New York version of it—than Jonathan Waxman. Arguably one of the first celebrity chefs, he left Santa Monica in 1984 and set down at an East 79th Street restaurant called Jams. Composed of big strange salads, barely poached vegetables, lightly seared meats and fish, and a simple roast chicken with fries that seemed terribly déclassé—and wonderful—to Upper East Siders, the menu framed an American answer to French nouvelle cuisine. It took the city by storm, or at least by light drizzle. At Jams, Waxman is also credited with the city’s first open kitchen.

But the Upper East Side was already waning in popularity as a dining destination, and Jams tanked in 1987. After disappearing for 16 years, Waxman re-emerged in 2003, roast chicken in tow, at Washington Park in Greenwich Village. His lively and expensive menu changed daily, and he was often seen in the elevated kitchen at the rear of the dining room, a gray-bearded figure who seemed to be having a great time. But though the restaurant was often thronged, it closed abruptly the next year.

Sporting a very shaggy dog as its logo, Barbuto (“beard”) was born soon afterward, located on the ground floor of Industria Superstudio in the remote Village nabe known as the West Coast. Not only is the kitchen open in the concrete-floored space, but the entire restaurant is open too, fronted by glass garage doors that are raised in good weather. And the rentable studios upstairs guarantee a ready supply of models, the
sine qua non of the wildly popular restaurant. Unexpectedly, the prices on the Italian-inspired menu are cheaper than you might have feared.

Waxman’s signature roast chicken ($17) still lights up the menu, a half-bird with a deliriously crisp brown skin, now slicked with Italian salsa verde. Fries ($5) must be purchased separately. As I sat on a rainy evening with three friends, carb loading our way to a Ben Kweller concert, we demanded the fries as an appetizer and dug them so much, we ordered another round for the
main course. Other praiseworthy selections included a roast baby-lamb shank in brown goo with little cubes of celeriac and a
gorgeous-to-look-at plate of delicate pork ribs.

That evening, we were also impressed by the salt-cod appetizer ($9), a combined patty of taters and fish that was browned on both sides and planted on a piece of toast. A dribble of oily vinaigrette added just the right oomph. But on another occasion, the patty tasted woody and bland. Had they washed too much salt out of it? By the way, most of the appetizers, even when they don’t read as such on the menu, turn out to be weird salads. The one of shaved root vegetables is the most interesting, while the one matching tender squid and Bibb lettuce left us wanting more squid.

Even better than the roast chicken is spaghetti carbonara ($16). Aping the Roman original, it deploys egg yolks—but no cream—and plenty of cheese and diced hog jowl. I was still thinking about it at the show, as I picked pasta out of my teeth, pondering the lyrics to Kweller’s “Wasted & Ready”: “Sex reminds her of eating spaghetti/I am wasted but I’m ready/Running as fast as I can.”