Laura Maioglio is the owner of famed family-owned Italian restaurant Barbetta, a fixture in New York’s Theater District for more than 100 years. Established in 1906 by her father, Sebastiano Maioglio, Barbetta was among the first fine-dining Italian restaurants in the city and helped put the cuisine of the family’s native Piemonte region in the international spotlight. Ms. Maioglio took over Barbetta in the early 1960s after graduating magna cum laude from Bryn Mawr College with a Bachelor of Arts in art history. Initially, her father had expressed his disapproval toward Ms. Maioglio’s desire to run the restaurant, going so far as to arrange its sale to an outside party before she returned with an attorney. Eventually, Ms. Maioglio was able to convince the buyer to halt the sale, and she assumed full ownership of the restaurant in 1962.
Since 1962, Ms. Maioglio has been instrumental in building Barbetta’s reputation as not only a cultural fixture decorated with antique Italian furniture and artwork, but a culinary powerhouse capable of continually evolving with the times. As one of the first restaurants in the United States to consistently offer white truffle dishes, she maintained working relationships with Italian truffle hunters for decades to ensure a steady supply of the delicacy, and by the 1970s, Barbetta had become synonymous with truffles. While maintaining a focus on classic Piemontese dishes, Ms. Maioglio expanded Barbetta’s menu with a shifting and seasonal range of quintessentially Italian creations.
Ms. Maioglio is considered instrumental in boosting the visibility of Italian wine, winning first prize from the Italian government in 1977 for Most Outstanding Wine List, Wine Enthusiast’s Award of Ultimate Distinction in 2004, and Wine Spectator’s Best Award of Excellence each year from 1997 until 2010. She continues her dedication to keeping Barbetta both innovative and authentic, and currently operates on a “team de cuisine” model, employing a collaborative group of highly specialized chefs focusing on individual dishes and flavors instead of a more traditional executive chef model.
Under Ms. Maioglio’s leadership, Barbetta has been granted landmark status and featured as a symbol of New York in iconic films and television shows including “Mad Men,” “Sex and the City,” and the Academy Award-winning drama “The Departed” in 2006. Among other honors, it has been included in the Distinguished Restaurants of North America Hall of Fame, given four stars by the Mobil Guide and one star by Fodor’s, and was named one of Esquire Magazine’s top six Italian restaurants in the United States. Ms. Maioglio attributes her continued success to running the business “as if their life depended on it,” and is “sentimental” about the restaurant’s lineage as the oldest continuously family-owned establishment in the city.
Ms. Maioglio plans to continue running Barbetta for as long as she is able, and is proud to have executed her unique creative vision for the restaurant for more than six decades. Her late husband, Dr. Gunter Blobel, is the winner of the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize in medicine for his research in protein signaling. He continued the couple’s focus on arts and cultural heritage by donating the majority of his financial award to the reconstruction of the historic Dresden Synagogue. Ms. Maioglio looks forward to many more years of success at the helm of Barbetta and to remaining at the cutting edge of innovation in fine dining.