This culinary gem epitomizes the trendy, yet authentic, philly restaraunt scene.
Stepping inside the crowded space of Barbuzzo transports one from the urban streets of Philly to a treasured neighborhood spot somewhere in the Mediterranean. The sleek, modern exterior belies the rustic, intimate interior of this bustling, cozy 60-seat restaurant.
“We wanted a casual neighborhood spot where people could come for a special occasion or to just sit at the bar and have a glass of wine with a cheese plate,” says chef and co-owner Marcie Turney.
The restaurant, opened in 2010 by Turney and business partner Valerie Safran, is centered on Mediterranean cuisine with particular emphasis on house-made pasta and Neapolitan-style, wood-fired pizza. It quickly became a coveted dining destination in the competitive Philly dining scene.
Barbuzzo patrons span various demographics but share a common enjoyment of food and friendship. “Our customers vary from young to mature in age,” says Turney. “We serve corporate lunchers, happy-hour-goers and those out for a good dinner.”
Recipe For Success
The inspiration for the dining concept began far from the halls of a culinary school. Turney studied at Temple University, and then went to institution’s Tyler School of Art with a major in graphic design. Safran studied at Pennsylvania’s Shippensburg University with an elementary education major. Both started working as servers to earn supplemental incomes while they were in school. One of Turney’s earliest serving gigs led her to realize she liked working in the kitchen, and she went on to attend The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia.
To say that Turney and Safran since developed a small empire within a few Philadelphia blocks would be accurate — yet not truly reflective of their unique business ventures. They own five restaurants on 13th Street between Chestnut and Locust Streets (a three block area): Barbuzzo, Little Nonna’s, Bud and Marilyn’s, Jamonera and Lolita — each establishment harboring all alternative atmosphere and food flair.
Beyond the restaurants, they also run a prepared foods shop, Grocery Market & Catering (an upscale market for gourmet staples and take-out) and Marcie Blaine Artisanal Chocolates (a chocolatier based in their lifestyle shop, Verde). They also own Open House, another lifestyle retail shop selling housewares and novelty kitchen gadgets.
Barbuzzo was formed after trips to Italy, Spain and San Francisco where they relished Mediterranean cuisine and wood-fired pizza.
“The Mediterranean rusticity and vegetable-heavy diet really appealed to me,” relates Turney. “I knew it had to be our next venture.”
The menu at Barbuzzo is indeed vegetable-heavy, incorporating a produce element in 75 percent. “Produce is in every dish either as a supporting role to
protein or many times the focus,” reports Turney. “Fresh herbs are also a huge part of my cooking. For me, produce is a blank canvas for really interesting and strong ethnic flavors, which is how I really like to cook.”
Barbuzzo’s menu takes diners on a tour of delicate yet commanding flavors. For “Snacks” the restaurant features Mediterranean Olives with orange zest, Marcona almonds and Piri Piri chili. A Mushroom Crostone rests marinated white beans, garlic puree, pickled ramps and crispy pork cheek on seared country bread. The Spring Pea & Mushroom Arancini uses a mushroom escabeche, smoked garlic aioli and lemon.
Main “Plates” may focus on proteins, but the restaurant’s incorporation of produce into everything gives each dish a fresh and unique flavor. The addictive Caciocavallo Stuffed Meatballs are made from a house-ground short rib and pork incorporating Sicilian oregano, calabrian chili and pickled pepper served in an exceptional fresh-made tomato sauce. Grass-fed Strip Steak comes on a bed of baby eggplant caponata with toasted pignoli, salsa verde and fennel. The Grilled Mediterranean Octopus unites Fingerling potatoes, Taggiasca olives, roasted peppers, herbs and lemon. A perfectly grilled Bronzino delights with a warm Fregola salad and herb puree with a preserved lemon tapenade and Lemon Confitura.
Barbuzzo prides itself on its house-made pasta. Pan-Seared Gnocchi incorporates Guanciale meat, smoked corn, heirloom cherry tomatoes, local mushrooms and truffle butter. Sage Ravioli stars roasted Lancaster Butternut squash, celery root, Gorgonzola, and toasted pumpkin seeds.
Barbuzzo’s Pizza menu offers a wide variety of options for gourmet pies you won’t find in your corner pizza joint. Toppings include red Bartlett pears, arugula, pomegranate molasses, marinated ramps, pickled chilies, stinging nettles and charred leeks.
The restaurant’s creativity with produce is evidenced in a vegan Pappardelle dish. “We shave zucchini thin to width similar in size to Pappardelle,” describes Turney. “We then incorporate capers, blistered tomatoes, squash blossoms, garlic and pine nuts.”
Desserts provide another opportunity for rich produce-derived flavors. The moist Ricotta Orange Pound Cake Bread Pudding is a light yet flavorful ending, uniquely pairing lavender-honey ice cream and candied mint.
The menu also offers a Blackberry-Bergamot Tea Sorbet, La Colombe Espresso Tiramisu and a Marcie Blaine Chocolate Tasting (a cross-
promotion for the sister-store).
Fresh And Consistent Sources
Barbuzzo sources the majority of its produce from a broker who works with the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market. It also sources from local farms and co-ops. The combined produce expenditure for all the restaurants of the group totals $78,000 per month (with Barbuzzo’s share at $15,000).
Turney notes important sourcing criteria as freshness and consistency as well as the availability of unique items required for restaurants featuring particular cuisines.
“Sourcing (via our broker) from the Market and local farms provides consistency, large availability, and the capability to source hard-to-get Mexican and Spanish produce for Lolita and Jamonera, respectively,” she says.
Turney also enjoys creating vegetable dishes with lesser-known vegetables. “For example, I use items such as wood-roasted fresh chickpeas, which can be eaten like edamame (out of the shell), seared cucumbers, smoked beets or ash-roasted celeriac,” she says.
Barbuzzo’s menu changes seasonally, and Turney takes advantage of unique finds. “Sometimes our broker will bring us a sample of something interesting such as Buddah’s hand or finger limes, and I’ll pair it with fresh fish for a Crudo special.”
Barbuzzo Mediterranean Kitchen & Bar
110 South 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
LUNCH: Monday – Saturday,
12 p.m. – 3 p.m.
DINNER: Daily, 5 p.m. – Midnight