Monday, August 2, 2010

Contemporary Italian at Buca

Saturday night, I was craving something homey but couldn't quite put my finger on what. I finally settled on Italian and debated between Mercatto and Buca. Truthfully, I was hoping that Mercatto at Eaton Center had opened already so it would just a hop away from dinner...but alas, it's not ready. Ultimately, we decided to go to Buca. We have been before for a friend's birthday, but we arrived too late to eat and only had a chance to check the place out but not the food. Fortunately, even on Saturday night, they found us 2 spots at a communal high table. I have to admit I'm 50/50 on communal tables - you really have to be in the mood for them. I often find myself physically closer to the person sitting next to me rather than Tony; as a result, I struggle to focus on our conversation because I can hear down the table easier than across. I don't dislike them, but as I said, you really have to be in the mood to be friendly and interactive. Regardless, we were happy to get a table and were not joined by other guests until well into our meal.

To start, we decided to on the 3 salumi platter (a selection of 3 house cured meats). Our favourite was the eye of round. Our charcuterie plate was also accompanied by various house preservatives that were a nice complement to the salty meats. Our waiter also kindly recommended we order some bread, which we were hesitant at first, but ultimately ordered the nodini, bread knots flavoured with garlic and rosemary.

As I was craving some comfort food, there was no doubt I would do pasta as a main and I was immediately drawn to the Bigoli: duck egg pasta noodles with duck ragu, mascarpone and basil. I was actually a little disappointed by my dish, because the noodles were thick and chewy...which I should have expected from duck egg noodles, but it was not quite what I was expecting. In the end, I was craving some light, fresh pasta, which fortunately, Tony had! He had the Farfalle: hand cut pasta with baby octopus, artichokes and preserved chili (pictured). This was my second choice on the menu, so I'm lucky Tony cooperated :) The wide bow-like pasta was freshly made, thin and lightly tossed with chili (not spicy) and braised octopus. It was a delicious and well-made dish that I'm sure to return to eat next time.

Although we stuck to pasta mains, Buca does offer a traditional Italian experience - there were diners around us who did salumi to start, pasta as seconds, and meat/fish for mains. Buca is also a versatile restaurant with a warm yet contemporary feel. Patrons were young and old, casual and dressed to the nines - I loved the couple that had their baby with them by their side sleeping away in a stroller. It's something I've learned to love about Toronto, that young couples still dine out and have a downtown lifestyle even after kids...amazing!

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