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Charismatic Italian

Tender calamari with spicy bell peppers
Tender calamari with spicy bell peppers
Camilla Carboni

Buca di Beppo

Rating:
Star3
Star
Star
Star
Star

A very popular dining destination likely due to its proximity to the ever-populated Ward Cinemas, Buca di Beppo has captured my attention numerous times for that very reason - though don’t be fooled - the convenience is somewhat inconvenienced by the very long wait times.

Akin to the likes of Formaggio, though not as eloquent and refined, Buca di Beppo has a sense of humor, and a menu and ambience to confirm that.

Its walls are jam-packed with a collage of the most unassimilated assortment of memorabilia, from a large print of ladies eating spaghetti, to mid-20th century photography, and a real life high heeled shoe. Sometimes random is fabulous and, paired with the service which is true to Italian heritage in its collaborative and charming coordination, there is no denying that Buca is fun for the whole family. The vivacious energy is quite contagious and, magnified by the vibrant color palette and equally potent sangria, the mood is set for a guaranteed good time.

As for the menu, it is fairly substantial and covers the typical Italian basics with a few interesting twists, like the Spicy Calamari, which I highly recommend as one of the best calamari dishes I have yet to encounter in the United States. With a very light batter, sautéed with bell peppers and zesty garlic butter, the tubes are superbly tender and tasty, and served with a Napolitano dipping sauce which compliments the spicy tang.

For an entrée, be sure not to order a large, unless you are at least a party of four, or like the idea of about five days worth of work lunches. The portions are family style, and having an Italian mindset, Buca is counting on you having a large family.

The pastas, such as the Baked Rigattoni, are generously flavored in rich sauces and drenched with mozzarella. Pretty much on par with the well-known chain Macaroni Grill, the food is good, filling and satisfactory, though not truly authentic, nor phenomenal. Expect well rounded, hearty and comforting, and you won’t be disappointed.

What sets Buca apart is the initial walk-through of their kitchen, where they enhance your hunger with the wafting smells of hot garlic bread, fresh basil and sizzling meatballs, as they show off their spotless, yet flamboyant kitchen.

You can even eat at the VIP table (bookings essential), directly across from the pizza ovens, and enjoy your meal as it should be – from pan to plate – like it’s done in Italy.

With such excellently orchestrated clutter, the charm of the service, and the energy that pulsates through the various ‘rooms’ of this large, yet homely restaurant, Buca di Beppo is undeniably fun and worth experiencing – it’s Americanized-Italian family-style at its best.

Suggerimento (that’s ‘suggestion’ in Italian): sneak a peak at the restroom - that too is decked out with photography, humorous articles and amusing adornments - they have not missed a beat!

Plus: Be sure to get your photo taken by the in-house photographer…even if you do not purchase it, you will receive a postcard with a thumbnail of the photograph and a coupon for $5 off your next meal.

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