First Impressions: Barbalu

Barbalu front doorAfter Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc in the Seaport, the two couples behind Front Street favorite Barbarini Alimentari decided to go separate ways. Claudio and Linda Marini set off for higher ground—they’ll be opening Da Claudio Ristorante e Salumeria at 21 Ann next year. Stefano Barbagallo and Adriana Luque, meanwhile, stayed put: Their Barbalu—a portmanteau created from their last names—is now open in the former Barbarini space.

Well, some of it is open. Remember how Barbarini had the café space to the south, and the bigger market/restaurant to the north? The south part was finished first. (While it looks like the spaces will be separate, I was told that a small passageway will be cut between the two.) The room, which seats around 30, looks great, a mix of industrial slickness and rustic wood and brick; Adam thought it could use art or something, and I imagine it will come in time. That said, sitting in the corner below the wine rack requires a lot of trust in their contractor.

The menu isn’t so different from what Barbarini offered—salads, sandwiches, pastas, a handful of entrées. We went for lunch: We split the spinach salad, and I had the delicious spaghetti alla chitarra with sausage, and Adam ordered the soppressata sandwich. There were some bumps—the kitchen had no more fresh spaghetti (so I was offered linguine), Adam ordered a macchiato only to be served a cappuccino, the credit card machine stopped working—but the staff handled them with charm, if not exactly aplomb. For me, that looseness was part of what made Barbarini so appealing: It wasn’t a perfect restaurant, but it might have been a perfect neighborhood restaurant. Barbalu has the same vibe. When things get a little slow, you just have to pretend you’re in Italy.

I asked if the larger space would have a market, and I was told that they might sell some cheese, meats, etc., but not like the old incarnation. Also: Delivery is available.

Barbalu is at 225-227 Front St. (between Peck Slip and Beekman), 646-918-6565;

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