Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bigger is Better at Buca

If you haven't been to a Buca di Beppo Italian restaurant, get on the website and find one near you. I attended the grand opening festivities at the newest location yesterday, in Fort Myers, FL.

It's not my first experience at Buca but my first in quite sometime. This space used to be home to a sports bar. It has been skillfully  renovated and divided into cozy dens that make you feel like you are eating in your Italian Grandmothers house, complete with kitschy photos and memorabilia.

The food portions make you feel like you are at Grandma's too; served family style. Owner/Partner John Thall calls the meatballs, "as big as your head." He sat down next to me at the bar and we shared a plate while discussing his wine list. The photo below is just one meatball, all by its lonesome. The actual dish comes with three, served over pasta.

Back to the wine list, it is full of Italian selections including a signature red and white, bottled specifically for Buca de Beppo. We selected a Zenato Valpolicella. The wine opened up into a nicely balanced, velvety treat. I enjoyed it with each dish that I tried and the pricing was very appealing for a restaurant list, $39 a bottle.


Besides the giant, moist and meaty balls, I sampled the pizza margherita, chicken limone, shrimp florentine, shrimp fra diavolo and the baked rigatoni. I love a good rigatoni and this was cooked perfectly; the cheese just a little crusty, the sausage full of fennel, the sauce fresh and acidic.

When the dessert tray came around I almost fell out of my chair. Tiramisu, dark chocolate cake and a cheesecake that had an amazing raspberry and hazelnut sauce. This is a place for a party, a business dinner, a big family gathering and a big appetite. However, they are serving single portions at lunch so you can dive in slower than I did. MANGA!

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