Based in Toronto, Ontario, Nancy Matsumoto is a writer and editor who covers sustainable agriculture, food, sake, arts and culture.

At Barbuto, Chef Jonathan Waxman Brings a Little Bit of Italy to Thanksgiving Dinner

By Nancy Matsumoto

Not all West Villagers know that we have a culinary icon cooking in our midst. Chef Jonathan Waxman has been dishing out simple, Italian-inflected dishes at Barbuto, 775 Washington Street (between 12th and Jane Streets) since 2004. A professional trombonist-turned chef, Waxman was among the small cadre of visionaries, including Alice Waters, Julia Child, and Michael McCarty who in the 1970s taught Americans that food could be more than just fast, frozen, packaged and processed.

This year, Waxman will continue his tradition of serving Thanksgiving dinner at Barbuto. Although some observers may think there is a little bit of a disconnect between his style of cooking and the classic menu of the Pilgrims, Waxman says, “in reality the two are very synonymous.” All the foods of Thanksgiving dinner are now available in Italy and much of Europe, he notes, and if they are properly indoctrinated, Europeans love our traditional harvest feast.

The chef recalls a Thanksgiving he and his family spent years ago in the tiny village of Montmin, in the Haut-Savoie region of the French Alps, 60 miles from the Italian border and once a part of Italy. “We invited a bunch of people over who had never had Thanksgiving dinner before. They were confused at first, but once they tasted it, they loved it.”

For this year’s menu, Waxman will Italianize some traditional Thanksgiving ingredients: there will be an acorn squash pasta with toasted acorn seeds; a contorni (side dish) of brussel sprouts with chestnuts and bacon, and a pomegranate salad with apples, pears, and toasted walnuts. Sticking more closely to American tradition, he’ll also offer a contorni of pureed butternut squash. The main course will be roasted breast of free-range turkey from Pennsylvania Dutch country, served au jus. “I sort of hate stuffing most of the time, unless I cook it,” Waxman says. “It gets too soggy, too gross.” His solution to the problem will be to serve a “reverse stuffing” salad made of croutons and root vegetables tossed with vinaigrette and some turkey pan juices. Dessert will likely be a choice Italian chocolate pudding, an apple crostada (a type of pie), and a chestnut roulade, subject to market availability.

Cost of the four-course prix fixe dinner will be $65. For reservations, call Barbuto, (212) 924-9700.

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