Our dear friend Pünya took Bee out for a Birthday Bite at Buca Tuesday evening.
Buca is one of the current 'it' places on King West. Down a mysterious lane between the warehouse buildings, following the discreet little circular signs...
(BTW, several of the reviews out there suggest that Buca has NO signage. Either it was added after the reviews, or the reviewers should eat a few more carrots to improve their eyesight!)
The resto makes good use of the soaring brick rooms, with a white carrera marble bar stretching along the back wall between two of the spaces. The industrial-chic lighting floats in the volume, adding sparkle without being obtrusive.
The staff appear to all have day jobs at the Ford Agency- not in a long time have we set eyes upon a more perfect assemblage of young things. And from our brief experience, they know their pecorino from their capicola. (of course, none of the offerings have tags as pedestrian as the two just mentioned, but you catch our drift...)
Buca (whose chef/ partner is Rob Gentile, a protegé of Mark McEwan) describes itself as an osteria/ enoteca. They cure their own meats & salumi, which not surprisingly feature prominently on the menu. A large succulent prosciutto shares one end of the bar & is relentlessly pared away at throughout the evening. There is a glass-walled, climate- controlled curing chamber between the front rooms & an intimate rear dining room & bar. (sorry, it was too dark to photograph)
The menu, although not large, is almost overwhelming in its detail. With the explanatory "assistance" of our server, we became even more hopelessly undecided. It was really a case of what we would regrettably have to decline. So we put our taste buds in his hands (metaphorically speaking!). And although he suggested far more food than we could possibly handle on a Tuesday night, we were resolute in limiting ourselves to only a starter course & a shared pizza. There will be other occasions to forage a little wider.
We started with a platter of 2 cheeses & 3 cured meats. We should have swiped a copy of the menu because, for the life of us, we can't remember the names of all these treats. Let's just describe them, shall we?
Bottom row, from left to right, in the photo above: a delectable soft fresh cheese from Italy, very much like the texture of bocconcini on the outside, with an inner consistency similar to fromage frais; a pecorino with a hint of truffle; an in-house cured meat from the pork loin, similar to a Bresaola (it's all about the pork fat!); an in-house spicy Soppresseta; and another in-house selection, a less spicy Salsiccine, made in the form of a small pepperoni stick & in this case coarsely sliced.The back row, left to right: a "chutney" of fig, pear, chopped nuts & fine balsamic; a spicy marinated eggplant salad; rosemary-cured olives. Behind the platter is a bowl of the house's signature bread knots which arrive warm & infused with garlic, rosemary & lots of olive oil.
We washed it all down with a lovely Maculan Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 from the Veneto.
We shared a seasonal pizza dotted with rounds of mozzarella, shavings of salsiccine, ramps & pickled garlic. It was heavenly. Now, we are a sucker for thin crusts, but this was really pushing the bounds with the scissor business. A bit of a gimmick, but there was no criticism of the results the kitchen turned-out: paper thin & not in the least bit soggy.
We really liked this place a lot, & will definitely return to sample the pastas (which appear to be very inventive & by all reports are excellent) and the mouth-watering carni. Of course, as the menu is subject to daily modification, we'll have to take our chances that we missed some fine opportunities last Tuesday, but we're confident that whatever chef Gentile feels like preparing on the day we're there, we won't be disappointed!
604 King Street W.
(416) 865- 1600
Joanne Kates' review from the Globe & Mail here.