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Il Buco Alimentri e Vineria: Rustic Italian in Noho

March 6, 2012

Like a lot of food enthusiasts out there, I read a number of publications each day, trying to keep up with the latest and the best of what is going on in New York.  Needless to say, New York Times’ weekly restaurant review ranks pretty high on my credibility scale when it comes to restaurants, even after Frank Bruni’s departure.  As much as I don’t want to admit, whenever a restaurant receives a two star or higher review, I pay just a tiny bit more attention.  Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, whose three star review recently created quite a stir, was one that caught my eye. So it wasn’t long before I found myself, along my Italian food (and other things Italian) loving friend DC, at the door of Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria.

   

Catching the start of a small storm on Friday night, we separately found our way inside Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria.   The restaurant/market sat on the easily dismissable Great Jones Street in Noho, right next door to the hard to find Bohemian.  The front of the restaurant was a market proudly displaying artisanal jars of jams and spreads as well as prosciutto and cheese with a small bar and a few scatterings of metal tables.  A little further beyond the bar was the downstairs dining room, a dark cellar like space lit by the flames from the open kitchen.  We were led upstairs to a slightly calmer room with mostly long rustic wooden tables, illuminated by candle light.  Because single tables were limited, DC and I found ourselves between a group of four rather rambunctious slightly older diners to the left and a quiet couple, perhaps on their second or third date.  As DC studied the menu, I amused myself by observing the second date couple (you really can’t resist when they are sitting so close by) while unwillingly hearing bursts of laughter in my left ear.  We decided to share all the dishes and started out with four appetizers.

The first of the four was a black bass crudo.  Thinly sliced translucent pieces of bass were dressed lightly with meyer lemon, olive oil and a shower of celery and baby watercress.  The simple accompaniment really let the fresh and tender fish stand out.

Next, a salad of wintergreens and Scalia anchovies with breadcrumbs. The anchovies were blended into the dressing, not at all visible to the naked eye but could not hide from the tongue, nor should they.  The hints of salty ocean was just what the robust wintergreens were asking for.

The seared Vermont quail was the third appetizer to come to our table.  A slightly heavier dish than our first two, the quail had been marinated in a herb de provence mix with yogurt and seared.  The tiny two biter portions were plenty flavorful even without the yogurt and crunchy farro scattered throughout.  With each bite, I tasted a different herb as they faded in and out.

At our waitress’ recommendation, we chose the fried rabbit as the final appetizer and without a doubt, this was a homerun for the both of us.  One bite shattered the golden crust, revealing a succulent inside and a little bit of black pepper honey flavor also joined the party in my mouth.  I licked my fingers after each piece, savoring the sweet and spicy flavor just a little longer.

Dining with such a pasta enthusiast as DC, I knew we had to try at least two from the pasta portion of the menu.  While we waited for our bucatini cacio e pepe and the spaghetti bottarga, a plate of porchetta danced in front of us, teasing us with its alluring scent before disappearing into the crowd for another lucky table.  That brief encounter was enough to make me doubt our decision to forgo the entrees – did we make a mistake and miss out on some incredible dishes?  I worried but it wasn’t long before our two pastas arrived.  Of the two, I found myself more drawn to the spaghetti bottarga, a light citrus pasta with salty dried roe shaved into the creamy sauce while the bucatini cacio e pepe was a little too al dente and dry for me.  Since the Times critic raved about the bucatini cacio e pepe, I could only hope that this was just a fluke in execution on behalf of the kitchen on a busy Friday night.

Even though I had to hit a pause button after the meal we had, DC was in the mood for something sweet.  After much debate and consultation with the waitress, she settled on the poached pear with ricotta ice cream and crumble.  Of course, I stole one tiny bite and yes it was indeed quite delicious.  The pear was cooked until absolutely soft and almost pillow-y while the ricotta hit it with cooling breeze.

Given that the restaurant was given a three star review by NYT amidst much debate among food enthusiasts, I had pretty high but mixed expectations about Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria.  We definitely hit some high notes (fried rabbit) with our dinner as well as some missteps (bucatini) but given that this was only one meal, I am certainly in no position to comprehensively weigh in on the debate of whether or not the restaurant deserved such a rave.  We did not even sample half of the menu where some more popular dishes, a whole roasted fish and short ribs for two that were being churned out by the kitchen every 10 minutes, resided.  That is why, I guess, we leave the real reviewing and critiquing to the professionals. That said, I do know one thing and that is I am definitely coming back if only to try that amazing looking/smelling porchetta.

Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria | 53 Great Jones St, New York, NY 10012 | http://www.ilbucovineria.com/

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 6, 2012 10.25 am

    i’m going back here for lunch today!!! and def ordering the rabbit and quail again!

    “four rather rambunctious slightly older diners to the left” <- hahaha v accurate description!! and dont forget the pocket squares and artsy glasses 😉

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