Every year Boy and I take each other out to a nice celebratory dinner for each other's birthdays. This year I chose my birthday dinner location, freeing boy of the mental labor that is required for planning of such events. My choices were Angelini, AOC, Lucques, Hungry Cat, and La Buca. So mostly restaurant I've been to and am familiar with the food. I just wanted to be able to kick back a little bit instead of getting all dolled up, going to a restaurant we've never been too, and being formal, in the midst of all my busy-ness lately.
All of em would have been great but I chose La Buca for its charming quaint interior, family-run atmosphere, and relaxed environment with the comforting buzz of Italian conversations flowing out of the kitchen. I grabbed an open bottle of Chateau St. Jean Pinot Noir from home and Boy brought a lovely bottle of Veuve Cliquot Brut Vintage 1998.
We started off dinner with their complementary freshly baked bread and a small ramekin of tomato sauce for dipping. The soft flat bread comes out steaming and hot, which is makes a perfect introduction to the meal when dipped into the zingy tomato sauce that's got a good kick of spice to it.
The last time I had come to La Buca with my friend C for a nice New Year's Eve supper we were blown away by the Burrata in Tavola, which consists of generous spoonfuls of creamy cool burrata, a variety of lovely thin slices of Italian cured meats, and peppery arugula. So simple, so good.
For our main we ordered Tagliata Bene, a Piedmont-style steak, and Gnocchi Boscaiola. The steak was to be cooked to a medium rare but instead it came medium well, which for me is practically a well done fossil. However, the meat was still tasty and not as dry as the color of the slice would suggest and the gorgonzola sauce poured over the steak was delicious. The steak came with a side of squash which was overcooked, but the side of kale was still good.
Now the gnocchi, that is something to be excited about. Large fluffy potato gnocchi with ham, peas, mushrooms, and parmesan. I've never had gnocchi so pillowy before. I could probably fall asleep on it and have some damn good dreams. I thought it was weird though how they gave me the pasta with a little pot filled with grated parmesan.
The pot of pregrated parmesan just brought back memories of pizza dinners back in the day for which diners would be left to their own devices with plastic containers of red pepper flakes and pregrated parmesan. It would have been nice if they brought a chunk of parmigiano reggiano over to the table and freshly grated it into my plate. Or just grated it in the kitchen and make it easier on themselves. I mean this is a bonafide Italian restaurant right? One that some even hold higher than Angelini? I don't know, it was just a bit weird.
Then it was dessert time, tiramisu please. Denied. Oh my god I almost cried. No heavenly light tiramisu for end my birthday dinner?!! My eyes got sadly glossy but I was quickly appeased with the Torta di Pere e Barolo. Their tiramisu is amazing and I'll have to make up this folly very soon.
La Buca is a very small space with very small table, hence quaint but also a bit cramped. It was a bit of a tableware puzzle practice with our six drinking glasses, 1 large bottle of water, plates, candle, etc. But a very nice relaxing birthday dinner with delicious food, drinks, and company.
5210 1/2 Melrose Ave