Like all great book club meetings, ours begins with a debacle.
As previously mentioned, we created our own book club last year, which we entitled Booze Before Books (by now, you should be aware of where our priorities lie). By some miracle, we manage to read a book each month by such literary titans as Julie Klausner, Sloane Crosley, Bethenny Frankel, and for this particular meeting, Betty White. But mostly, we do a lot of dining out.
|We Can Only Befriend Excessive Eaters|
|Unfortunately Sans Cheesecake|
Vodka takes one glance at these diners, and instead of the slightly tipsy faces of the Booze Before Books members, she finds three strangers.
"I don't know these people," she whisper-yells to the hostess.
The hostess, insistent that Vodka must be experiencing amnesia, confirms again that she has the same name as this foreign reservation and looks at her expectantly.
"These are not my friends," Vodka assures her. We retreat to the hostess stand, where it is revealed (by Vodka not-so-patiently whipping out the OpenTable app on her phone) that the hostesses have checked these interlopers in under our reservation. Of course, the other Booze Before Books members begin to arrive at just this time, and smirk in appreciation of the shenanigan under way.
All's well that ends well, and we are eventually seated at our own table, but not before Vodka decides that, even though her real first name is not particularly common, she's just going to have to start going by Vodka at all times in order to cut down on the confusion.
|And She's Going to Have to Start Drinking, Stat|
"Why are we the only ones having trouble hearing?" Ginger asks. "No one else seems to be having an issue." But looking at the surrounding tables, we discover the reason no one else is in need of hearing aids: they're not even attempting to speak to each other.
Apparently, Barbuto is the place to go if you don't want to talk to your friends. In fact, as we have also learned, Barbuto is the place to go if you do not even want to be seated with your friends in the first place.
Acquiring our wine, we sip it at a much slower pace than usual because not only have we been told that our chicken dishes (which we have all ordered. When in Rome...) will take 35 minutes, we have nothing on which to nosh save for a few sad-looking olives. Would it kill Jonathan Waxman to serve his guests a bread basket, for goodness sake? Demerit.
|This Lull Causes Ginger to Ramble About Her Irrational Hatred of Teardrop-Shaped Water Glasses|
Luckily, in our wait for our chicken, we have more than enough time to hear Ginger prattle on about her anxieties concerning her upcoming trip to El Salvador, up to and including such gems as "If you look at the malaria map, as I have many times...." When our dinners finally arrive, it is all she can do not to stash half of her chicken in her handbag to save as rations for her trek across Central America.
|Do We Think This Would Make It Through Customs?|
And this "for chicken" distinction turns out to be our main problem: roast chicken is one of those dishes we would never, ever order at a restaurant, if for no other reason than it is boring. It is also one of the things we are capable of making at home. Is Barbuto's version better than ours, and presumably better than Tyler Florence's? Sure. But in the end, pollo al forno is still just a roast chicken with a fancy name. And roast chicken is simply not very interesting.
|Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? Cause He Was Bored to Death|
|Obviously Not Created During the Potato Famine|
|Corn That Tastes Like It Was Glazed with Pure Honey|
Needless to say, our next Booze Before Books meeting will be taking place at an establishment that serves bread baskets, invests in noise insulators, and knows Vodka by name.
Barbuto's Pollo al Forno: 3 stars