Monday, October 7, 2013

Relentlessly Trendy

2720 McCullough
(just south of Mulberry)

This space used to hold a church-affiliated coffee shop, but is now being put to somewhat more promising use as an uber-trendy pizza joint, complete with too many craft beers and odd toppings imported from Spain in cans. (Presumably the Spanish are at the acme of food-canning technology. For those who like eel and shellfish on their pizza, there may be no better way to get it, this far from the ocean.)

The place got a write-up in some local newspaper while I was out of town, sufficient to engage my wife's curiosity; so on our first dinner outing after my return, we tried it, indulging our predilection for patronizing places in our own neighbourhood. Barbaro, though, is clearly aimed more at the University crowd and the overflow from the Quarry and Pearl, two nearby trendy areas that try with some success to evoke the glamour of Los Angeles without also invoking its shallow, seamy side. Made me feel very Old-Guard to be there.

I thought, when we stepped in, that they were expecting a very large party, as there appeared to be one long table for 24 down the middle of the well-appointed dining room. But no: it was just a dozen tables for two, lined up so ... let's say, intimately ... that they appeared as one. Personally, I don't enjoy sitting so close to other diners, as they are too often engaged in conversation so inane or pretentious that it makes for painful, yet unavoidable, eavesdropping. We were lucky, though: it was early enough that we snagged one of the half-dozen booths along the front wall.

The menu is fairly brief: pizzas, a few salads, cheeses; all of these have ingredients with unfamiliar names. We were given a run-down of the dozen craft beers on tap, and selected two to sample. Both were good, but we both preferred the same one. Then we had our waitress, who had clearly been well-instructed in the details of the menu offerings, give us a brief exegesis of the terminology, before making our selection. We chose the least exotic pizza they had: cheese, cilantro, red onion, some kind of pig-meat. We also asked for house salads, but we were told the house salad has no greens in it, just chunks of something trendy, so we skipped that part of the meal.

By the time our pizza arrived the place had filled up with what looked like the steering committee of the Bexar County Democratic Party: a guy who looked like a liberal-arts professor at the community college, with an acolyte; a table of four girls who appeared to be celebrating the city's recent insertion of the thin end of the wedge into the sexual-orientation kerfluffle; some young couples on dates; and three girls who seemed saddened by their unwise decision to give away their tickets to that night's Scorpions match. (Scorpions won, by the way. Yea.) 

The pizza itself was good, with a well-choreographed blend of flavours from fresh ingredients. Most gratifyingly, the cilantro wasn't allowed to overwhelm the other ingredients. The toppings, though not overdone, were too much for the very thin crust to bear. The liquid of the tomato sauce had fully penetrated, so the ends of each piece had to be carefully supported with a fork to effect a transfer from platter to plate. The outer edge was satisfyingly crisp, though the residual flour on the underside gave an unpleasantly dry and flavourless jolt to the tongue. 

All this exotic food and trendiness comes at a surprisingly reasonable price. When we go for pizza, we usually have half a pie left over for the next morning's EPL matches, but the large pie at Barbaro, while enough for two good appetites, isn't enough to warrant a go-box. Maybe the price doesn't compare favourably with heavily-advertised pies the major pizza chains offer, but then, this is actual pizza, not some circular tomato-based salt conduit. You won't come away feeling like you could have done better on your budget.

Barbaro on Urbanspoon


  1. Bennie GonzalezNovember 21, 2013

    Hilarious. And all true.

  2. Dances With WulfDecember 28, 2013

    so if the prices are "surprisingly reasonable" how come it only gets a two and a half rating on value?

    1. On the page of this blog called "About Restaurant Ratings," (link on the right, near the top) I wrote,

      "If I pay about what I'd expect for food of the calibre I've just eaten, that's two and a half chili peppers. Better food at the same prices translates into better value. More food at the same price may or may not. This rating comes down to whether I feel cheated when I leave, and how strong that feeling is."

      That about sums it up.

      In the case of Barbaro, a part of me would have given it a slightly higher rating on value. But in the end, I'm comfortable with the average rating. The prices aren't so good as to demand another half-pepper.


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