Barbetta in New York, NY has been recognized as a DiRoNA Awarded restaurant since 1997!
Opened in 1906 by Sebastiano Maioglio, and now owned by his daughter, Laura Maioglio, Barbetta is the oldest restaurant in New York that is still owned by its founding family. In its palazzo-like interior decorated with authentic 18th century Piemontese antiques and its exuberantly verdant summer garden, Barbetta serves the cuisine of Piemonte.
Barbetta, having celebrated its 100th Anniversary in 2006, is the oldest restaurant in New York that is still owned by the family that founded it. Barbetta is also the oldest Italian restaurant in New York and the oldest restaurant in New York’s Theatre District.
This three-fold distinction makes this historic restaurant a landmark among New York restaurants. Its landmark status has been recognized by the prestigious and highly selective Locali Storici d’Italia, which has designated Barbetta a Locale Storico (Historic Establishment,) the only restaurant in America to have been so named.
Founded in 1906 by Sebastiano Maioglio, Barbetta is now owned by his daughter, Laura Maioglio.
Barbetta’s spectacular interior was decorated by owner Laura Maioglio. Ms. Maioglio, who received a degree magna cum laude in Art History from Bryn Mawr and who is a collector, used important 18th century Piemontese antiques to evoke a Piemontese palazzo of the 18th Century, the period in which Piemonte reached its artistic peak. Among these pieces, the most notable is the great chandelier which hangs in Barbetta’s main dining room, obtained from a palazzo in Torino which had belonged to the Savoys, Italy’s royal family. Another very important piece is the harpsichord, signed Fabbri 1631, in the foyer of the restaurant.
Ms. Maioglio transformed Barbetta in 1962 to create the first elegant Italian restaurant in New York as a backdrop to the cuisine of Piemonte which Barbetta serves.
The interior of Barbetta has since been landmarked by the Locali Storici d’Italia and cannot be altered in any way.
Barbetta has been serving the cuisine of Piemonte since Sebastiano Maioglio first opened Barbetta in 1906. On the Barbetta menu by each dish is noted the year in which it was first served at Barbetta. From the menu, it can be seen that traditional Piemontese dishes such as Agnolotti, Risotto, Polenta, and Bollito have been served at Barbetta since 1906.
When Laura Maioglio, daughter of the founder, took over in 1962, she was determined to make Barbetta more Piemontese than ever, adding such typical dishes as Fonduta, Carne Cruda, Bagna Cauda, Bue al Barolo, and introducing white truffles and Piemonte’s traditional white truffle dishes.
In 1962, Ms. Maioglio started bringing in white truffles — hunted by her own truffle hounds because at that time white truffles were not available on the American market. Since then Barbetta has served white truffles regularly during the white truffle season, the first restaurant in America to do so.
As one would expect from a restaurant that is over 100 years old, the cuisine and menu at Barbetta reflect the 109 – year culinary history of the restaurant and the taste and recipes of the owners and the chefs who have worked at Barbetta through the years.
Unlike those restaurants where the arrival of a new chef heralds an almost entirely new menu, at Barbetta at any moment in time, the menu is a collection of dishes representing the past, the present, and the future of Barbetta’s cuisine.
The running of the kitchen at Barbetta has always been a very close collaboration between owner and chef, with the owner acting like the designer and the chef and his team like the sample room, to use an analogy from the fashion world. As such, it is a very hands-on operation for owner Laura Maioglio. Beginning in 2004, Ms. Maioglio introduced a new system in the kitchen, creating the team concept. Rather than working through an individual Executive Chef, Ms. Maioglio now works with a team of highly accomplished Chefs, each responsible for the dishes each one makes best. The Sous Chefs are also encouraged to create new dishes to present to her for possible inclusion on the menu. To this Team de Cuisine, as Ms. Maioglio has named it, she acts as coach. Ms. Maioglio’s team concept follows the lines of a sports team and its coach.
Creativity at Barbetta is the first priority. But Ms. Maioglio insists that creativity and innovation be within the Italian idiom. That, she believes, is the true challenge facing Italian cuisine today.
Following Ms. Maioglio’s philosophy, every dish (new or old) must meet certain requirements. The flavor of the dish must be Italian, the dish must be true to the way food is prepared in Italy, if the dish is a known classic or traditional Italian dish it should be the very best example of its kind, and if the dish is a totally new creation its roots (to the cuisine or dish of a given Italian region) must be identifiable in its taste, that is its “pedigree” must be recognizable.
There is such a thing as an Italian flavor, as easily identifiable to a person with experience eating in Italy, as the music of a given composer is recognizable to a lover of music.
Authenticity at Barbetta does not mean working within inflexible constraints but achieving results which are unequivocally Italian.
Barbetta accomplished for Piemontese wines what it accomplished for Piemontese cuisine, introducing the great wines of Piemonte, many unknown to Americans before that time. It is hard to believe now, with Italian wines having gained so much in prestige and popularity in recent years, that in 1962, when Ms. Maioglio took over Barbetta, only one Barolo was being imported into America and that Barbaresco, Nebbiolo, Gattinara, Ghemme, Barbera, and Grignolino were not being imported at all.
For many years, Barbetta brought in for itself alone the only Barbaresco, Gattinara, and Ghemme to be found in this country. In the ’70s, Barbetta also began to import Grignolino and Barbera from its own vineyards in Fubine Monferrato. As early as 1977, Barbetta won first prize from the Italian Government (ICE) for the most outstanding Italian wine list.
Barbetta’s current Wine List reflects the work done by Leopoldo Frokic from 1997 to 2004 and from then carried on by subsequent sommeliers. The Barbetta Wine List numbers over 1,700 different labels, with extraordinary verticals and rare vintages from the top producers going back to 1961. This remarkable list won Wine Enthusiast’s first prize in February 2005, the Award of Ultimate Distinction. It has also won Wine Spectator’s second prize, the Best of Award of Excellence, every year since 1997. In September 2005, Barbetta won first prize from SantÃ© Magazine.