I fell in love with Buca several years ago after my first visit. I’ve been back several times since then and I’ve yet to be disappointed!
It was Mike’s Dad’s birthday and we couldn’t think of a better place to bring his parents than Buca (@bucatoronto).
Located on King West, you’ll find it near the King and Portland intersection. I had trouble finding the entrance the first time I visited – just look for the small red sign on the north side of King which will lead you down a small alleyway. The entrance is at the end of it.
I love the space here with its high ceilings and exposed brick walls. The restaurant has a main dining area and smaller intimate room which also doubles as a wine cellar.
The prices are on the high side for Italian food but it’s worth every penny. Great quality and big flavours brought to you by chef Rob Gentile (@ChefBuca). You won’t find a typical plate of spaghetti and meatballs here! They have a large menu of cured meats, cheese, salads, pizzas, appetizers pastas and meats.
We started off with the Nodini – warm bread knots with olive oil, rosemary, garlic and sea salt ($6). They’re soft, garlicky and incredibly addictive. I had to stop myself from eating too many since I knew we had a lot of other great dishes coming our way.
Something we always order at Buca is their Parmigiana di Melanzane – preserved tomato and fried eggplant layered with bufala ricotta and burrata cheese ($14). It’s definitely not your run-of-the-mill eggplant parm…I’d call it a “fancy” eggplant parm. It’s oh-so-delicate, crisp without being greasy and the burrata cheese and ricotta just gave it all a nice freshness.
I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’ve never tried the pizzas from Buca before. On this visit, we tried the Salumi di Buca Pizza – smoked pizza dough with preserved tomato, buffalo cheddar, eggplant and salumi di buca finished with rosemary salt ($21) which was absolutely incredible.
I could really taste the smokiness in the dough. It definitely added another dimension to the pizza. Their salumi was delicious as always and the combination of it with the cheddar, eggplant and rosemary salt was perfection. I think we’re going to have to add this to our list of Buca favourites!
For my main, I went with the Ravioli Doppi – double-stuffed ravioli, braised duck and foie gras, goat cheese mousse finished with duck crackle, fresh citrus and tangerine lace ($26). Our server described it as “double chambered” ravioli – something I’ve never had before. One chamber was stuffed with the braised duck and foie gras while the other side consisted of the goat cheese mousse. While cutting into it, I made sure I got an even amount in each bite.
It was a very rich and decadent dish and I was surprised that the taste of foie gras had such a strong presence. The dish also had a lot of fruitiness to it which help offset the richness of it all and the crunch from the duck crackle and hazelnuts complimented the soft pillowy ravioli well. Everything on this beautiful plate just worked.
Mike’s mom ordered the Bigoli – hand-cranked duck egg pasta with duck offal ragu, venetian spices, mascarpone and basil ($19) upon our recommendation. While the menu changes often, this dish has been on the menu since I first came here a few years back.
Don’t be scared off by the duck offal ragu. It doesn’t taste like offal at all. The pasta is cooked to a perfect al dente and the sauce has a wonderful creaminess from the mascarpone. It’s one of my favourite pasta dishes in the city and it was just as good as I remembered!
Mike’s dad ordered the Gnocchi alla Cenere – hand-rolled dumplings made from onion ash, served with fresh broccoli, pecorino, parmigiano cheese finished with fresh pregiato truffles ($26). The gnocchi was smaller than I’m used to – like mini gnocchi! But size isn’t everything as these little bites were packed full of flavour. I only had a small bite but I think Mike’s dad really enjoyed the dish since he cleared it pretty quickly!
Mike ordered the Bollito di Bufala – tender water buffalo shoulder, crispy smoked tendons, salsa verde, pickled mushrooms, wild ramp and fermented garlic ($32). The buffalo shoulder was cooked sous-vide resulting in an incredibly tender piece of meat. The knife cut through it like butter!
The meat was seasoned well and the accompanying smoked tendons (which were basically crackling), mushrooms and ramps went well together. I think the deciding factor for ordering this dish was the ramps – we both love ramps and whenever we see it on the menu we gravitate towards it since it has such a short season.
While we thought buffalo dish was tasty, I feel that their pastas is where Buca really shines so if it’s your first time here, I recommend going with one of their pastas.
For dessert, we ordered the Tiramisu di Buca – espresso-soaked house made tapioca biscuits, layered with mascarpone and chocolate mousse ($12). I know what you’re thinking… $12 for a tiramisu? It’s definitely a bit of a splurge since it’s not exactly a huge dessert but it really is a fantastic tiramisu. I love the crisp chocolate top which was reminiscent of a brulee and the light, fluffy mousse wasn’t too sweet. It was the perfect ending to our meal.
Needless to say, I had another fantastic meal at Buca and more importantly, Mike’s parents loved it too!
At a glance:
• Serving up delicious Italian food on King West (King and Portland)
• Prices are on the high side for Italian food
• Open everyday for dinner at 5pm; lunch is served Mondays to Fridays
• One of my favourite Italian restaurants in the city
• Favourites include: Parmigiana di Melanzane, Salumi di Buca Pizza and Bigoli
Ratings (out of 5):
• Food: 4.5 stars
• Service: 3 stars
• Atmosphere: 4 stars