Given our self-proclaimed obsession with shellfish (and admitted “take it or leave it” stance on eggs), brunch often feels like a missed opportunity. After all, there are generally a precious few seafood dishes available during the breakfast-meets-lunch meal, save for a predictable variant on smoked salmon or lox. But if anyone understands our penchant for under-the-sea eats, it’s Dave Pasternack (or as Frank Bruni once dubbed him, “The Fish Whisperer”), whose claim to fame was opening one of New York’s top seafood destinations, Esca, along with Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich back in 2000. That’s why it was especially exciting for us fish-o-philes when Pasternack finally launched a second venture, Barchetta, back in April (with the LDV Hospitality Group this time), providing a Chelsea home for his signature Crudos, simple, often shellfish-based Pastas, and piscine mains, like Whole Roasted Branzino or Sea Bream.
And the good news is, he doesn’t drop that through-line for brunch, although yes, you can get a Pat LaFrieda-blend Burger if you really want to. But why would you want to? Not when those Crudos have made it onto the late morning menu, including translucent cuts of Fluke with dill, a fall-friendly Striped Bass glistening with pumpkin seed oil, or a seldom-seen Blackfish, interestingly accented with Italian pine bud syrup. Although if sandwiches are really what you crave, there’s a solid Lobster Roll, as well as a Crispy Whiting Panini strewn with pickled fennel, and smeared with garlic aioli.
As for Antipasti, that’s where you’ll find the “bagels and lox” play on Salmon (house-cured, paired with mascarpone and brioche), but top marks go to the Tonno alla Nizza — a sizable, Nicoise-esque salad, with a beautifully balanced grainy mustard vinaigrette, haricot vert, and fingerling potatoes. There are soft boiled eggs along for the ride, too — fine with us, as long as they’re cuddled up to hunks of tender tuna belly.
The Secondi section is essentially transported straight from the dinner menu, meaning you can feast on thick tentacles of Charred Octopus, filets of Mahi Mahi cloaked in a cranberry bean ragu, and that whole, blackened Orata (sea bream), served with nothing more than a halved lemon for drizzling, as early as 11:30 a.m. And while we generally reject sweets served as main courses in the morning (to say nothing of Barchetta’s Baguette Pumpkin French Toast), a serious brunch spread such as this just begs to be concluded with dessert; get the Olive Oil Cake, sprinkled with toasted pine nuts and champagne grapes.
So if you’re more turned on by the idea of trout and clams than bacon and eggs, there’s no need to view brunch at Barchetta as a missed opportunity. Because if anything, it provides an excellent excuse for getting your seafood on just a little bit earlier in the day.