Buca, a high end Italian restaurant located at 604 King St West (or rather, at the end of an alley off King St, west of Portland), is not a new buzzy hot spot. However, it is a consistently good restaurant with excellent service and quality food. Even after its 5 plus years of operation, the restaurant is full on a Tuesday night, which is a wonder in the fickle Toronto restaurant scene. A word of advice: when trying to make a reservation skip the online booking system Open Table and call instead (we were able to get a table even though the online system appeared fully booked).
When it comes to service, early reviews painted a dire picture. Let me assure you, Buca has figured this out and our service left nothing to be desired. The hostess, wait staff and bus boys were all excellent.
The ambiance is perfect for a date, a group of friends catching up, or a family meal. The light and volume are well balanced to enable conversation. The sky high industrial ceilings and big windows make you forgot you are actually in a basement.
Drinks remain expensive, with Pinot Grigio being the cheapest wine by the glass at $13 for a 5 ounce pour. A nice touch is that wait staff pour the ‘by the glass’ wines directly from the bottle at your table, enabling you to taste before you commit.
Most importantly, the food is very good. We started with warm bread knots ($6), covered in garlic, rosemary and olive oil. What’s not to love?
Next we selected 3 items from the dozen or so salumi and cheese choices ($18 for 3). My favourite by far was the bufala ricotta. So smooth and delicious, served with a side of plump cranberries. Oddly, no crostini or bread came with the board so we weren’t sure how to eat a spreadable cheese. Upon request, wait staff quickly brought out a plate of warm crostini at no charge. Really though, a bit silly that this wasn’t included to begin with. The other cheese, a sheep’s milk pecorino toscano was also very good and full of flavour. The proscuittini, on the other hand, was quite bland and fatty even when eaten with the accompanying pickled zucchini.
I was very keen to have their fresh pasta, so I went with Ravioli Doppo ($24) for my main. The ravioli was stuffed with braised goose on one side and butternut squash on the other, enabling you to try either both flavours at once or each one separately. It was topped with a fluffy parmigiano sauce, hazelnuts and crackled goose skin making for a very interesting combination of textures and flavours. A few unique and tasty dish, though I missed the rustic taste of fresh pasta a little bit.
We did not try the pizzas, which looked delicious and big enough for four. Definitely something I want to try next time. Note that the menu currently on Buca’s website is truly a sample and at least 50% of the items were not on tonight’s menu, which seems to be seasonally focused.
The selection of desserts ($12) looked a bit heavy considering how full we were and the gelato seemed a bit pricey at $7 a scoop, so we skipped dessert. We were pleasantly surprised to receive two delicious Italian cookies with our bill. The perfect little treat and a lovely way to end the meal.
It’s the little things that make the dining experience special and because of that, I will keep returning to Buca.