You just can’t beat good Italian food. Buca makes really fucking good Italian food.  Nestled underneath a multi-purpose building on the corner of King and Portland in downtown Toronto, Buca is an exquisite retreat just off King street’s crazy nightlife scene. Executive chef Rob Gentile has been at Buca since the beginning, and also oversees the food at Bar Buca, and Buca Yorkville.

On a frigid Toronto evening we wandered into Buca without a reservation, and managed to snag a few seats at the bar. We were pretty hungry, so we just ordered a bunch of random food and decided to try it all. We started off with the chicory salad. It was a pleasantly bitter salad, with a beautiful pesto genovese and pistachio. This was paired with the crudo Tonno alla Puttanesca, a thinly sliced raw tuna dish slathered in red wine vinegar, with grape tomatoes, olives, anchovies and capers. It was a great start to our meal.

Next came the Salumi di Buca. Salumi is Italian charcuterie, and I tend to like the Italian cured meats much more anyways. We went with the 3 choices for $28 and the restaurant supplied us with a generous portion of Mortadella, Salame Calabrese, and Cavallo (for a $5 supplement). It came with an eggplant puree on the side as well. All were fantastic, the Salame had the perfect amount of heat from chili, but the star was the Cavallo, which is cured with juniper. Nothing like the classic combination of horse and juniper! Also coming out with the Salumi was the Gnocco Fritto, which were essentially deep fried puffy dumplings with lard to spread on. Being a sac-religious north american, I decided to make a sandwich with the cavallo, gnocco fritto, lardo, and eggplant spread. Probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It was unreal.

Soon after, the restaurant brought out our carbs: Spaghetti al Nero di Maiale,  and the All’Amatriciana pizza. The pizza was quite good, a nice, light, Italian thin crust dough, with pancetta, pecorino romano, tomatoes and onion. The real star of the night however was the pasta. Literally translated to Black Spaghetti of Pig, the pasta is flavoured with the blood of pig and then tossed with n’duja, soffritto, rapini, and smoked burrata. Although the pasta was quite spicy (which is a good thing), the burrata really evened out the heat and provided a necessary base.

I didn’t consume any wine, and instead opted for a few Perroni, because I was in the mood for some beer. Buca does however offer an extensive wine list specializing in, you guessed it, Italian wines.

I would highly recommend Buca to anyone that loves good Italian food (that should be everyone in the world). A little pricey, but worth every penny.

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