May 27, 2014
It didn't sound like much. Bar Buca. Didn't look like much either: the bottom of a highrise building with a sign so small you barely know the place is there. Inside it doesn't exactly trumpet its greatness; a coffee bar, an open kitchen, tall stools clustered around raised tables.
Then I looked at the menu. And looked again. I've heard of most of these dishes, but I've never seen most of them outside of Italy. I wanted to try everything.
Gamberetti. As fried shrimp go, these don't look promising. They look like they spent too long in the fryer. Looks are deceiving: the crust is crisp and greaseless, the shrimp inside juicy and barely cooked. The color of the batter comes from the n'duja that's been folded in, giving them a strong meaty jolt of heat. The black powder on the plate? Rosemary ash.
Tigelle. The menu calls these "Bolognese skillet buns," but I know them as a classic snack from Modena. Inside the crisp little slices is cunza, lardo whipped with rosemary and oil until it's nothing but a fluff of flavor.
Sardella calabrese, a Calabrian dish that was once known as "poor man's caviar." It used to be made with infant anchovies or sardines that were left to ferment in the sun, then mixed with chiles into a salty, addictive substance. To protect the fishery the use of sardines and anchovies has been prohibited since 2010, and now sardella's made with smelt. I couldn't tell the difference. The burrata and olive oil on top temper the flavors, softening the impact of the salt.
Stigghiole is another classic dish, this time from Palermo. Lamb caul and scallion are wrapped inside intenstine. I wish I could say that I loved it, but I had a hard time eating it in Sicily, and this one struck me as absolutely authentic.
Raw artichoke salad with buffalo yogurt, bottarga, horseradish. It tastes as fresh and lovely as it looks.
Dandelion and blood orange in a pungent Caesar-like dressing, topped with a fragile lacy crisp of bread.
Arrosticini: Ewe’s meat, aged ricotta, grilled lemon. Rare, tender, completely delicious.
Afterward we had the most delicious macchiatos. They were made with buffalo milk. Of course.
And did I mention that Bar Buca is open from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.? Good thing I don't live in Toronto; I'd probably live there.
open 7 am. to 2 am.
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