Buca di Beppo

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Joined Oct 28, 1999
I very rarely visit chain restaurants, let alone feel the need to share my experiences. Not out of ‘food snobbery’ mind you, but it is just that local specialties are plentiful and the formula joints often lack dynamic. There are some very good chains, well intentioned and proficient at feeding the masses. Therein lies the problem; feeding the masses means inoffensive (unadventurous?) selections, unwilling to walk the tight rope between good taste and going too far. So, with all the local flavor in just about every town there is something unique that is worth exploring down some dark alley. However, to every one of Cantankerous’ Collection of Culinary Conventions there are exceptions.
If you have never visited a 1940s dinner club, then by all means be sure make every effort. They are famed for massive portions of red-sauce laden noodles, extra garlic, tried and true classics and familia. The problem, you see, is that the forties are over, by a long stretch, and there is just not much we can do about that. Enter Buca di Beppo, luckily. Modeled after one of those roaring clubs, kitsch and all, the food is massive in both heft and flavor.
The décor is inedible, so this cook tends to overlook that ‘stuff.’ At Buca di Beppo that is a bit difficult. There are posters, pictures, fountains, sculptures, postcards, brassieres and risqué pieces that are a throw back right to the heyday of Italy’s immigrant presence in the States. There are little fancies throughout Beppo’s place that will not be spoiled here. Kitchen secrets that are not so secret, the tour and the bathrooms (yes, even the bathrooms) are all flavorful garnish to main dish.
You sit as family in this restaurant. Large booths under the wall-mounted menu make you familiar with your guests as well as the neighbors to your left. You exchange exasperations over all the choices and suggestions from your last visit. Once settled, the world’s greatest team of staff is swift to deliver massive pitchers of red or white sangria, juice glasses of Chianti filled to the rim and fiery attitude. Each of these characters enjoys their time on stage and peppers their act with their own dollop of charisma, perhaps, sarcasm and zeal. It really does make the meal more enjoyable when the folks delivering the dishes can also deliver punch lines and endless knowledge of what takes place in the kitchen.
The massive garlic bread arrives loaded with an acre of sliced garlic nestled under stretchy mozzarella only to compete with the two-story pile of perfectly crisp rings of calamari and of course Caesar salad. Okay, so the Caesar is named for the guy from Tijuana, but the Italians have claimed this as there own. And judging by the amazing flavor that was packed among the torn romaine leaves, they take pride in ownership. We feasted on Chicken in Lemon Sauce that deifies everything you have ever experienced with the feathered creature. It is the moistest specimen this skeptic has ever encountered. The world’s greatest waitress insisted that the chicken would cut easily with a fork. I disagree. It cut merely with a glance. The Rigatoni Positano was laden with gobs of fresh mozzarella, strips of grilled chicken and perfectly flavored eggplant. Major garlic action here, too. We went a bit taboo by adding a side of Garlic Mashed Potatoes, just for the sake of trying their interpretation of the spud. It was misnamed. It could very easily be named Butter with Potatoes and Garlic. Velvety and packed with flavor the mashers were joined by Escarole sautéed in oil with, what else, more garlic. Of the entire meal, the greens struck me as the most authentic, as what you would expect sitting across from Frank and Dino. Alas, dessert was without garlic, but the folks at Buca di Beppo proved they do not need that pungent punch to make dessert sing so lovely. The world’s largest serving of Tirimsiu made it around the table of eight adults. Twice. The Cannolis were divine and the Spumoni is unparalleled in my book.
So, yeah, we like this chain restaurant and we’ll be back, if they let us in. There are a bunch of them around the US. We tried the one at 15th and Spruce in Philadelphia.
 

kuan

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Joined Jun 11, 2001
Well now... I've always stayed away from chain restaurants. There's a Buca near here. Maybe I'll try it one day.

Kuan
 
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Joined Nov 10, 2000
Been to the Chicago one, Las Vegas, and the one in Hawaii.
Guess I liked it.

And all of the decor is basically the same at all locations, especially "The Pope Room".

Bring a doggy bag.
 
9,209
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Joined Aug 29, 2000
We've got a Buca here in Milwaukee, and it's mostly good. I found some of the dishes subpar (veal marsala- ghastly sweet!), and others quite good (Rigatoni Positano). There are lots of bright spots on the menu, and the ambience is great for groups. We were just there with 11 friends; groups of 20 are not uncommon. That night the scene was full of homecoming dance-goers from local high schools.

I also ate at one in Naples, Florida. The food was identical, so I guess consistency is one of their corporate values. The Pope Room was the perfect spot for dinner the night before a Jewish wedding! :lol:
 

phatch

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I really like their bruschetta. The bread is not top notch but the marinated vegetables on top are excellent.

Definitely worth a try as chains go.

Phil
 
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Joined Jan 26, 2001
When my family comes to visit, we always go to Buca. I always said it was a midwestern anomaly, I'm sorry to hear it is also on the east coast! =)

The thing I like is that even the dishes without meat have enough flavor and are great for sharing, even with non-vegetarians. My husband would kill for the garlic cheese bread and the cannoli, I loved the tiramisu and manicotti.

The worst part about Buca is that it doesn't make any sense to go with only two people, even with four you end up with leftovers for a week!

~~Shimmer~~
 
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Joined Jul 27, 2002
I don't know if it just me, or maybe just the one experience I had, but this weekend was my first and last time there. I am just too picky about service I guess. The waiter came to the table and asked: "How are you all doing tonight?" We replied, "great how are you?"and then he says, "I'm pretty tired, don't really feel like working today!" From there the service only got worse! I was mad, because I drove an hour each way just to have dinner there, only to get that! Never again, I just can't go there because of that one experience.
 
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Joined Jan 21, 2002
My wife likes the place a lot, but it's just okay to me. But see, i'm not a HUGE fan of Italian food. I like it but not as much as she does.
 
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Joined Dec 5, 2004
I stayed for a month at a hotel that had a Buca out front. I tried eating there several times. Each time, it become more and more unpalatable. I found the sauces to be off-color, even the olive oil I requested for dipping the bread seemed off. The only thing I enjoyed was the definitely-retro atmosphere, I was really put off by the food.
 
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