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Jack of All Trades – Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria

March 4, 2012

I don’t think a restaurant write-up has ever graced the pages of this blog, but it’s not often I’m so enamored by a dining experience that I feel the need to pen some notes on why I thought my meal at Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria was spectacular on my beer blog.

In the same exact manner I discover a lot of the restaurants I end up trying, I read about Il Buco A & E in the New York Times Dining section’s regular restaurant reviews.  Intrigued that it stirred up so much controversy when Pete Wells awarded it three stars, putting it in the same ranks as a place like Babbo, I knew I had to get some reservations there.

So, I booked an 8:00 PM slot on a Friday night for four people to experience this Italian deli slash grocery store that turns into one of the sexiest restaurants at night.  Located in the ambiguous neighborhood of NoHo on 53 Great Jones Street, it looks exactly like what a restaurant should look like.  Exposed brick, open kitchen, tables with metal countertops, lots of wood, lots of empty jugs and wine bottles and so much more.  I could go on and on but you could just Google the place and find your own pictures.

So our party walked in on a Friday night to a hustlin’ and bustlin’ joint filled with a healthy heterogeneous mix of old vs. young, local vs. foreign, and hip vs. normal.  The authenticity of this place was validated by the thin Italian man in a slim fit suit that sat us at our table and by the two extremely dapper and also thin Italian men served us.  Yes, I think we had two waiters.

What set the night off to a great start was the astute waiter that picked up on our guest couples praise of my fiance’s recently acquired engagement ring and who came to our table bearing a congratulations for us.  Awesome.

The waiter guided us through the menu and advised on everything and anything we asked about.  For our libations my fiance ended up with a mini carafe of their house red.  Our guest couple went in the direction of white wine and Sixpoint Crisp.  And, I myself went with a Sixpoint Righteous Ale.  That’s right.  This place, despite being authentically Italian has a decided to put a few good craft beers on their menu, including an unnamed and forgotten London porter, might have been Fuller’s and one of my all time favorites, Pretty Things Jack D’Or, or in their case, Saison.  There were others, and I wish I sneaked a picture of the list with my smart phone.  One more point to add.  Said waiter opened up my can of beer and asked me, “Don’t you love that sound? Sounds like Sunday.”

For food, we were advised to order a bit more conservatively as many of their entrees could serve two people so we based our decisions on this advice.  For appetizers, we indulged in grilled octopus and fried rabbit. The former so well seasoned and slightly charred on the outside over a bed of chickpeas and the latter coated in some of the crispest batter and sprinkled with a bit of sugar on the outside making for delectable bites repeated over and over.

For entrees, we chose to go with the grilled Branzino and roasted short ribs. While I can’t vouch for the fish, my company told me  it was delicious.  The short ribs were wonderfully crisp and peppered on the outside and filled with tenderness, figuratively and literally, on the inside, served with celery and green olives.

After all that, we did get dessert, enjoying some of the richest and most pronounced flavors that chocolate, salted caramel and vanilla gelato could have.

Unfortunately, there was one snafu, in which the host playfully sat next to me as I looked for someone to correct the added items on our bill.  He told me that he would take the two glasses of wine off, drink them himself and take care of the problem.  It was taken care of.

So, after all the great food and drink, I think I had myself one of the best meal experiences I’ve had in a long time.

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