The night before running a marathon will always be a stressful one so there is no need for "the last supper" to add any form of anxiety to the evening. Last weekend, I learned a very important lesson - even if you think you are fooling the rest of the city by eating during the early bird special, reserve your carb loading location in advance! On Saturday, I set out at 6:15 to head to Piccolo Angelo, my local Italian restaurant. While far from gourmet, they churn out some of the best authentic Italian dishes in the city. Apparently every other marathoner in the region had the same intentions as we quickly learned that they were booked for the night. While I was at first stuck on the fact that my neighborhood dive actually took reservations, I soon started to panic that the search for the simple, yet hearty pasta dish I was craving (and needing) was going to be no simple task. It is times like this when I am thankful that I really do know the restaurants in the area - and Barbuto immediately came to the rescue.
Not only did Barbuto fit the crucial criteria - Italian and nearby - but it ended up being an ideal location for the group I was with. I was still able to order the dish I had envisioned and they were given many more gourmet options than would have been provided around the corner. The other good news was that I barely had to exert any extra energy, walking an three extra blocks west to Barbuto. The abrupt change in location was meant to be. It was a particularly warm evening for November and so the restaurant was able to take advantage of one of it's best features -the possibility of an open-air setting. The restaurant space was formerly a garage with huge garage doors opening up onto the streets. The five of us were seated at a small circular table where we could hear every one at the table while still being able to check out all the action taking place on the west village streets - and that night we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a very racey photo shoot.
Although I was sticking to the basics, I still wanted a complete meal, consisting of all five food groups. Making sure that they would be able to keep up with me the next day, my cheering section/dining companions definitely wanted to try up as many things as possible on this varied new Italian menu. We started off sharing butternut squash bruschetta and a side of Brussels sprouts. While I have always been a huge fan of Brussels sprouts, the preparation at Barbuto would even be able to fool vegetable haters into eating them. The greens were shaved and sauteed with pecorino romano, lemon and toasted walnuts - extremely delicate, but full of flavor. I was also very happy to see butternut squash back on menus - one of my favorite fall items.
The fall flavors were carried into the main dishes that we ordered as well. The best pasta dish was the butternut squash gnocchi. No matter the season, Barbuto always knows how to serve up some of the best potato dumplings in town. They are completely tender, melting in your mouth - and it was an added bonus that these were prepared with butternut squash. I actually took carb loading to a new level -bringing an element of delicious cuisine into the equation. I filled up on carbs and protein with large, flat noodles topped with a flavorful combination of veal and pork meat sauce. Although I was not able to try it, the culinary experts I was with assured me that the seafood at Barbuto is actually even better than the pasta. The simple preparation of sauteed cod with braised endive, orange and breadcrumbs was served in a mini casserole dish. But, the most popular dish of the night were the scallops. Again, the chef took advantage of fall produce - placing the sauteed scallops and pancetta on a bed of spaghetti squash and roasted kale leaves. Since we were all concerned with covering many miles the next day, every dish was spotless by the end of the meal.
Food is one of the few things left in your control the day before running a marathon. At this point, you are either in shape or not. You also pretty much know that no matter how early you get into bed the night before, your body will really only fall asleep just a few hours before the 4:45 am wake up call. Since this was the first year that there was not an official Achilles New York chapter pasta fest, I had to take matters into my own hands. While it initially seemed like even my food intake had been taken from my own control, I kicked into early marathon mode, remembering mind over matter, and the night turned out to be a great success. I will definitely admit that I am superstitious and given the great day we had out on the course on Sunday, I should probably go ahead and reserve my corner, circular table at Barbuto for 6:30 on November 1, 2009. But, we all know that I never officially decide if I am going to do the marathon until August. I do, however, definitely know that I plan to enjoy many more evenings at Barbuto before then.
775 Washington St
New York, NY 10014-1748
Phone: (212) 924-9700