When Inky critic Craig LaBan first reviewed Barbuzzo in 2010, he found three enthusiastic bells for the rustic Mediterranean spot, which quickly established itself as a staple. Four years later, the dining scene looks different, and so does LaBan's view on Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran's flagship restaurant. He demoted the restaurant today to two bells based on a recent revisit, while expressing a hope to give it another look next year.
"This wasn’t a 'bad' meal, by most measures," he wrote in today's food and restaurants chat, "but a relative let-down." High points included the carrot-sumac soup and "notable" burger with feta and onions, while the restaurant's famous budino was "as over-the-top indulgent as ever."
But a few things crossed the table that "probably shouldn't have been served," and the meal as a whole fell short. One particular deficiency served to illustrate the probable source of the disappointment:
The pizzas, meanwhile, were especially lackluster, with a one-dimensional dough that didn't show much puff [...]. Considering the current explosion in wood-fired pizza venues this past couple years, the difference here was noticeable.
LaBan seems unsure if the problem is that the food at Barbuzzo has slipped as Turney and Safran have expanded, or if our expectations have been recalibrated as the dining scene Barbuzzo helped shape has begun to outpace it:
Overall, Barbuzzo felt like a one-time trendsetter that has let the rest of the scene catch up, and begin to pass it by.