The moment it hit me that I didn’t have my camera in hand, I wanted to forget the whole thing. What’s the point of eating if I’m not taking pictures of my food? I ended up settling for a camera phone, and the photos turned out looking like they came from a camera phone. I thought about not reviewing the place until I could go back and get more appropriate pictures, but I’m forging ahead, because you have to go to Barboncino in Crown Heights as soon as possible. You should’ve been there yesterday.
The last time I had reason to visit Crown Heights, it was to meet a friend at a Korean tacos place that had just upgraded from a food truck to an actual store. It was one of approximately two cute restaurants on a street lined with taxi companies called things like New Beginnings No 1, LLC. Now, the same area is in the midst of a full-on gentrification that has skipped the restaurants still serving mama’s home cooking but in spaces decorated to make white people feel comfortable and gone straight to juice bars and frozen yogurt shops. Right in the middle of this is Barboncino, one of the best pizza joints not only in Brooklyn but in NYC in general.
The place appears tiny as you enter, with the white-tiled pizza oven taking up most of the front room and looking like a work of art to a pie-lover. But take a few more steps, and you’re in an open room full of dark wood tables with matching benches, a bar that wraps around into an adjacent space, an old-timey pressed tin ceiling, a live jazz band playing in the corner, and friendly servers with just the right balance of too cool and attentive.
My friends and I started with the Neapolitan meatballs with organic Italian tomato sauce, Parmigiano reggiano, and parsley that were flavorful, moist, and large enough that I could’ve been satisfied with them as an entree. Of course I chose to add a side of burrata cheese when our server offered it, and it was half of an entire ball of burrata, bursting with cream, for a mere $4. The server wouldn’t tell me where they source it from, but it was one of the better burratas I’ve ever had. One friend got the arugula salad with marinated cherry tomatoes, basil, and balsamic vinaigrette and loved the addition of pine nuts, while the other friend was hoping for the watermelon and prosciutto special she’d had on her last visit and was in luck. With basil and feta cheese over huge slabs of fresh fruit and cured meat, it’s something you should hope to hear on their specials menu during your visit, too.
The pizza is the sort with that lightly-charred, blistered crust you long for from a wood-fired oven. Developed in-house by chef/owner Ron Brown, who opened Barboncino after putting in his time at other much-loved NYC pizza joints, this dough was some of the saltiest I’ve had, and I do love my salt. The crust was crunchy on the outside, just doughy enough on the inside, and very dense. If you’re the type who likes a light-as-air crust that allows you to eat an entire pizza yourself, Barboncino isn’t your place. But the amount of toppings on our four-cheese with pepperoni–fior di latte, gorgonzola, ricotta, parmigiano romano, extra virgin olive oil, and big, crispy pepperoni slices to contrast the creamy cheeses–entirely balanced the heavier crust. Of course we had to order the classic margherita with organic Italian tomatoes, fior di latte, basil, and extra virgin olive oil to sample the sweet, very fresh-tasting tomato sauce, but the menu is full of interesting combinations I’ll be trying on future visits very, very soon.
– Katie Ett, donuts4dinner.com