It’s a great opportunity when a restaurant owner-chef team decides to open both a higher- and lower-end dining concept in the same city. But it’s even better when they are located right next door to each other, as is the case with Perbacco and Barbacco. Big sister Perbacco, a perrenial Top 100 restaurant since it opened in 2006, concentrates on the Northern Italian regions of Piemonte and Liguria. Owner-Chef Steffan Terje and partner Umberto Gibin opened Barbacco Eno Trattoria two years later, offering small plates from the other regions of Italy (mostly Southern).
We will have to post abut Perbacco on another day, since today it is all about Barbacco. However, since Barbacco (despite it’s name) does not have a full bar, we prefer to start our meal with cocktails at Perbacco (and the staff fully understands). We started with a couple of excellently made aperitivo cocktails: a Financial (High West Silver Oat Whiskey, Cinzano Bianco, grapefruit bitters) and a Montenegrino (Rittenhouse Rye, Amaro Montenegro, Nocino liquore):
We were very tempted to stay and dine at Perbacco, but we moseyed over the more casual Barbacco and were seated at the counter. We started with an order of Pesce Crudo, which changes on a daily basis. That evening the crudo featured fresh amberjack lightly dressed with citrus oil and topped with radicchio shavings and thinly sliced kumquats:
We are big fans of Sicilian wine and Alexandra Occhipinti, so we ordered a bottle of her excellent SP68 rosso, a Cerasuolo-style blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato grapes:
We usually would order their excellent Salumi platter but decided to go with a small plate of their ‘nduja sausage, a spicy Calabrian smoked spreadable salami:
We are also addicted to their Fried Ascolane Olives, breaded and stuffed with short rib filling (small order shown). Although it was great with the wine, this is the dish that makes you wish they did have a full bar:
Pasta dishes here at Barbacco are entrée-sized, and none of them cost more than $15. There are about six different selections that include lasagne, paccheri and orrechiete varieties, but the corn rigatoni (which happens to be gluten free) caught our eye. It was the essence of spring in a pasta dish with bits of asparagus, spinach, bacon and ricotta cheese sauce lightly flavored with meyer lemon:
As a side dish, we ordered the Brussels Sprouts fried in duck fat served with capers and dressed with an anchovy and red wine vinaigrette. We no longer miss the version from the original SPQR since these Roman-style sprouts hit the spot:
If it were to be compared to the Italian restaurant tiers, Perbacco is definitely the full-service Ristorante, whereas Barbacco is the more casual Trattoria, serving small and large plates meant for sharing. Both restaurants have been consistently good since they first opened, and it’s also a great idea to have the regional Italian focus differ between the two of them. Barbacco is open throughout the day, so it’s a great place to stop by for lunch. They also offer ready-made items to go for those crunched for time.