Finding an excellent yet reasonably-priced meal on New York’s Upper East Side can be a bit of a challenge. It’s not exactly NYC’s trendiest dining destination, and a lot of times it seems that the high prices to be found in restaurants there do not reflect the quality of the food served. With that in mind, coming across Barbaresco Restaurant on a recent evening in the area was a truly wonderful delight.
Barbaresco looks like your typical upscale Italian eatery: a narrow space with tables along one wall and a bar along the other, exposed brick, white tablecloths, and dark wood accents. We were fortunate that one table at the very front of the house was open and available, and it was a nice place to sit: a little away from the bustle and noise of the main dining room and with a view onto Lexington Avenue outside.
The dinner menu had appealed to me as we had walked by looking for a place to eat; it was not especially long yet offered some unusual dishes along with some classics. The truffle-flavored Tuscan aged goat cheese and fresh pears sounded like a delicious appetizer, but I had to go for the sauteed chicken liver in vin santo with sage, chicken livers being one of my favorite foods in the entire universe if cooked well. The sweetie wanted a pasta to start and chose the pappardelle with chicken, olive oil, peppers and tomatoes. For main courses, I had to go for one of their specials, ossobuco with risotto Milanese while sweetie got the seared red snapper with fennel.
Barbaresco’s wine list offers a nice variety of Italian and California bottles, with prices ranging from the low $40s well into the $300s. We chose a modest yet pleasant Chianti Classico to go with our meal, and it was certainly a wonderful choice with those chicken livers. They were delicious: full of flavor, firm yet tender, their richness balanced by the crisp salad greens. When I told our waiter how wonderful they were he said it was considered the house specialty…and I can certainly see why!
The pappardelle was also quite good, with noodles that tasted fresh-made and in a light tomato sauce full of roasted pepper flavor. I definitely helped myself to more than a few tastes of it!
Equally outstanding were both of our entrées. The osso buco was perfectly tender and a nice generous cut of veal shank. The red snapper was delicately-flavored, and even the side vegetables were tasty and worth savoring; so often in Italian restaurants they seem to be there as simply an afterthought.
I’m not sure how we had room, but after such a good meal the sweetie had to get dessert. We went for the tartufo, always one of my favorites: because who doesn’t have room for ice cream?
All of this plus two double espressos (we still had a late train-and-car ride back to South Jersey ahead of us) was just under $160—shockingly affordable for the area compared to what our UES dinners usually seem to run. With the excellent food and good service, I would absolutely go back to Barbaresco any time in the future, and recommend it to others looking for a terrific Italian meal with something available to match anyone’s tastes.