Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Buca di Beppo Food Review II

Spaghetti with Meatballs

I never know what to expect from a return visit to Buca di Beppo... There's no other place like it in the nation's capital, or anywhere else for that matter. Unrivaled portion sizes (count on take-away after... lots of take-away) and a wide variety of choices compliment cheerful service and wonderful ambiance. Nothing beats Italian food served right; and Buca di Beppo serves it better than most.

Never been? What's the matter with you? You absolutely have to experience Buca di Beppo for yourself. Consider the following review (my second) a friendly reminder of what could be yours, at a moment's reservation's notice.

Apple Gorgonzola Salad

As with all visits to Joe's Basement (a rough translation of Buca di Beppo) it begins with a warm welcome at the hostess station, followed by a short (or lengthy, depending on your section) walk through the dining room maze area. Like to eat outside? Buca has you covered (with a view of Connecticut Avenue to boot.) Want a table with a "unique" view? Try the Pope's table with Francis in the center. Everywhere else (including a walk-through kitchen) is filled with Christmas lights and umpteen photographs from Sophia Loren to Frank Sinatra to various nuns in all sorts of situations.

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

I was dropped off at a cozy booth, where I set up shop for almost two hours. Two hours? Yes, you read correctly. Rome wasn't built in a day; and I need time to eat it all. My server Dennis couldn't have been nicer, and set me up with a ginger ale and Apple Gorgonzola Salad (Granny Smith apples, spiced walnuts, dried cranberries and Gorgonzola tossed with mixed lettuce in Buca's yummy Italian vinaigrette.) A lunch portion feeds two, and sets you back just $10.99. I love apples and cranberries; and you'd be hard pressed to find a fresher-tasting (and substantial) salad for lunch.

Chicken Marsala

From there, it was on to the first of my three entrees (insert joke here.) Shrimp Fra Diavolo ($13.99) is simple and delicious. A spicy rosa sauce (with crushed red peppers) covers penne pasta with garlic shrimp in a "Towering Inferno" of fiery goodness. Be warned, it's deceivingly spicy; but if you love hot (like I do) you're in for a treat. After that, I went back to an old favorite... Chicken Marsala, my first grown-up food (i.e. date night orders, hoping to impress.) Buca's Marsala is a thing of beauty, so good in fact... I temporarily forgot that I don't like mushrooms. Perhaps it's the incredibly rich wine reduction, which turns a relatively normal plate of moist chicken breasts into something out of this world. For a minute there, I could have sworn I was back at Anna Maria's: Thank you Buca for a most pleasant flashback.

Garlic Bread

You can't have an authentic Italian meal without Spaghetti with Meatballs; and Buca makes one of the best in town. The meatballs weigh in at a "slim & trim" half pound each, and rank a close second overall in our Top 5. Buca's housemade tomato sauce is almost as good... beautifully colored, chunky, and tasty. Count on perfectly cooked, fresh pasta too. If only I had a basket of Garlic Bread to pair it with... then I'd be in Pasta Heaven. As luck would have it, I ordered some of that as well. Not to be confused with Buca's top notch regular bread, their garlic variety comes bursting with flavor (good enough to eat on its own, or smothered in the aforementioned tomato sauce.)

Italian Creme Cake

After a walk around (don't miss the coolest bathroom stall in America... Pompeii in action) I came back for a double espresso (awesome) and the above-pictured Italian Creme Cake, which could qualify as the best slice of cake I've had in a decade. Picture this: Six layers of lemon cake and mascarpone cheese filling, covered in a decadent raspberry-hazelnut sauce and topped off with fresh whipped cream and mint. Better yet, why not taste it? Needless to say, I sent back an empty plate. One of these days (hopefully soon) I'm gonna go crazy and order the Dolce Platter, which includes Tiramisu, Double Dark Chocolate Cake, Homemade Cheesecake and Italian Crème Cake. It costs $29.95, and is probably meant to serve at least four hungry diners; but if I plan ahead...

Coolest bathroom stall ever!

Buca di Beppo is one of the few restaurants that I actually want to stay and linger in. I've yet to spot an unhappy customer; and can't recall a meal that didn't register at least a 6.0 on the Richter Scale (poor Pompeii reference... my apologies.) I'd eat here once a month if I could (thank goodness for elastic waistbands) but as is, I'm proud to recommend it to you... for what promises to be "a perfect slice of Italy."