UWS Opening: Fratelli la Bufala — Menu, Photos & Initial Thoughts

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Posted last week that the long-awaited Fratelli la Bufala at 2161 Broadway (corner of 76th) finally opened on Friday.

I’m a bit late on my follow-up, but here’s a copy of the menu, some photos, and a few initial thoughts.

The first thing I noticed when walking into the restaurant during a preview event last week was that just about everyone around me was speaking Italian.

From the hosts to the managers, kitchen staff, PR people, media types, and others, Fratelli la Bufula gave off a distinctly Italian vibe. While most of the servers I saw seemed to be American, just about everyone else appeared to speak Italian as their first language — this isn’t just ARWAWBO (Another Restaurant With A Wood-Burning Oven).

The three brothers behind the Naples-based chain have more than 100 other locations, most of which are in Italy. The Upper West Side outpost is only their second in the U.S. (there’s another in Miami), although it was hinted to me they may be opening others in NYC if the UWS spot does well.

The space used to be home to Niko’s, which closed last year. It’s been gut-renovated since then, allowing for much more natural light and a significantly more modern feel. I hadn’t eaten at Niko’s in about 10+ years, but even from just looking in while passing by since then, it’s easy to tell the difference is night and day.

When you enter, the first thing you’ll see is the pizza prep area on your right, complete with a giant wood-burning oven. A nice touch is that each table has a small herb plant on it, rather than a traditional centerpiece. They’re both decorative and functional — I was told people are encouraged to grab a few sprigs of rosemary or basil leaves and put it on their food if they’d like.

There’s a small area in the back they hope to turn into a wine bar type setting, for those times when you just want to grab some vino with friends and nibble rather that sit down for a full meal. If coffee is more your thing, they have a very impressive looking machine that appears capable of making just about any caffeine-laden beverage you can think of.

I didn’t get a chance to sample a whole lot, but what I did eat was very good. The crust on the Margherita I tried had a nice texture and the flavors were exactly what I would have expected out of high-end, authentic Italian restaurant that specializes in pizza. I would have loved to sample some of their more creative offerings, but it wasn’t  in the cards that day.

It’s pretty much impossible for me to evaluate their food on the few bites I ate, but it certainly seemed promising.

Early reviews on Yelp seem to be somewhat consistent: Good food, bad service.

I’m willing to cut the place some slack on the latter, since most restaurants are ironing out the kinks when they first open. MUW reader Adrian (whom I got to meet at the March UWS-work-from-home meet-up) probably summed it up best in a note he sent in earlier in the week:

Tried Fratelli on Sunday. Agree with other reviewers that I should have waited a week or two for their service to stabilize a bit… but the pizza was great!

Someone going by the handle “westsidefoodie” posted the following in the MUW comments on Monday:

Fratelli La Bufala was tasty and definitely still has some kinks to iron out, but they just opened, so that is to be expected. Pizza is excellent, but pricey for what you get and the toppings are scant but delicious… In any case, it’s worth a visit. The decor is funky and the wine list is pretty reasonable. Also pretty kid-friendly, especially due to the pitch of the place (it’s darned loud in there).

Time will tell, but I see this place being a huge success. I’d rather they have good food/weak service when they first open than the other way around — the latter is much easier to fix.

Their hours are 11:00 am – 11:00 pm, Sunday through Thursday; on Friday and Saturday they’re open until midnight. They’re serving wine and beer now, but hard liquor is on hold pending approval of their license. The restaurant’s phone number 212-496-5303.

If anyone has had a chance to try Fratelli la Bufala, please sound off in the comments or drop me a line at alerts [at] myupperwest.com.

Menus & Photos (click for full-size)

Filed under: Food & Drink, Going Out, Kid Stuff, Manhattan, New York City, News, NYC, Openings/Closings, Restaurants, Seniors, Upper West Side, Upper West Side Blog, Upper West Side Review, UWS 4 Comments »
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  • AliShatz

    Does anyone else think this place is a bit too pricey for an UWS neighborhood joint? I haven’t eaten there yet, but I am discouraged by the prices…

  • http://twitter.com/abbasali Abbas

    Pricey, yes… but in line with all the other places that are opening up in the are (Serafina, Joanne’s). However, worst service I have ever experienced in New York in my life. I will never be going back out of principle alone unless they call me up apologize and invite me for a meal on the house.

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