Why it has taken so long to write about Il Buco I do not know, but the important thing is I’ve finally come to it, months later, and am grateful to relive the experience.
It was cold that night, but well before the endless snows came and clogged the streets. Cold, but dry. December 27th, two days after Christmas and my 5th year anniversary with the most beautiful Jacquelyn. Clearly, after five years something exceedingly special was in order. We had come much further than tired chain restaurants, which had their place and time, certainly such forays should be laid to rest.
Sometime in December I really started making the most of my Yelp app. At work I was spending hours a day searching for future dinner excursions; occasions and non-occasions alike. It was through this arduous process that I would eventually settle on Il Buco, Northern Italian / Mediterranean fare set in a rustic escape from an otherwise drab NoHo setting. Flanked by an overwrought shoe boutique and violent scores of scaffolding, its a gem.
Getting there required a short subway ride from the path station, though I suppose an enduring walk could have been possible. The street itself seems eerily desolate, most likely a product of the lack of night oriented business in the area.
That all changes when the velvet curtains are pushed aside, taking you straight to Northern Italy. Bucolic kitchen accessories adorn the stone walls whilst waxy dripping candles light cramped tables. The atmosphere then, as I believe I have made quite obvious, is astounding, enchanting and homey all wrapped into one.
We were seated at a tight table between two others near the front of the restaurant, requiring the table to be moved to slide in and sit. Now a brief aside. When one subsists on home cooked meals and cheap take out for so long (something of a college rite of passage) the cost of an exuberant meal such as this one can be somewhat unnerving. Bolstered by a fresh paycheck and a “we never get to do this” attitude, however, takes some of the sting out when you see the check.
We were greeted by our server, authentic European accent and all and allocated a generous helping of crusty breads and an extremely interesting olive oil, the flavor of which was bold and earthier than any I’ve ever tasted. We next selected a wine, a bottle of blush the name of which escapes me, but was something close to the cheapest on the wine list, some upwards of a thousand dollars.
Being presented wine in the proper fashion was also somewhat of an unsettling experience for the uninitiated. Especially someone who normally takes his wine from the spout…from a bag…from a box. First you are shown the bottle. Then, upon your bewildered yet faux confident approval it is opened and given a short breadth then poured for tasting and a second approval. I nodded knowingly after first swirling my glass and sloshing the deliciousness around my mouth. She knew I was full of shit. Whatever.
Now we move on to the starter, salted gambas or Hawaiian King Prawns, which must be forcibly removed from their watching bodies, putting up quite a good deal of resistance. They were certainly tasty, but probably not enough so to warrant their exorbitant price. A lull between the first and second courses heralded a sharp increase in wine intake, which was arguably more potent than I had anticipated. So by the arrival of the main course, I was feeling happy and carefree.
To say that this was the best meat I’ve ever eaten would be an insult to the hanger steak that made sweet sweet love to my mouth. Cooked to a perfect medium rare, from the first bite I knew I was in love. Complimented with a set of pan roasted potatoes and a broccoli rabe, this was the perfect portion set with a perfect taste.
A hasty dessert of decadent chocolate cake and utilization of a gorgeous bathroom and we were out the door. Sans money, but thoroughly sated.