Buca di Beppo is a favourite destination for many of my friends. A non-profit corporation that I work with has a tradition of heading off to the restaurant after board meetings. This is a good plan, because Buca is ideal for large parties with big appetites. It is even better if you can manage to get a booking in the Pope Room: a large, private room with one big, circular table. In the centre of the table is a lazy susan adorned with a splendid bust of John Paul himself. Nice of you to join us for dinner, Your Holiness.
This flippant attitude to Italian tradition carries through to the rest of the décor. The walls of the restaurant are covered in pictures of Italian life (and the occasional Italian celebrity). It is a fabulously fun place, and the staff are trained to encourage the mood without being offensively pushy about it.
It is, however, the food that is really important. Don't panic when you look at the menu. This is a "family style" restaurant. Each dish is intended for at least two people, possibly a lot more if you are small or on a diet. You are supposed to order a selection of items and share. The staff are very considerate and always try to discourage us from ordering more than we can possibly eat. They always fail, and without complaint package up the leftovers for us to take home.
The signature dish of the restaurant is spaghetti and beachballs, er, I mean meatballs: very, very big meatballs. However, just about everything they do is good. Last time I went they had a special of shrimp arrabbiata, which was absolutely awesome. They have some of the best garlic bread I have ever had, and the desserts are great too, which is a real shame as I'm normally too stuffed to have any. I have only two complaints. Firstly, don't order the house wine, it isn't very good. And second, when are these guys going to listen to my pleas for them to add zabaglione to the dessert menu?
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Santa Cruz, California
March 3, 2005
A very popular spot for birthday parties and social events, make sure to call ahead a reserve a table. The "Pope's table," a round table that seats 15 or so, is booked MONTHS in advance but is well worth the extra effort. People have called a year in advance to book their party at the Pope's.
The walls of Buca are covered (I mean, every square inch) in "Italian" memorabilia from the ‘30s and on. Stranger things include an old-fashioned bra, an old box of laundry detergent, and a picture of Audrey Hepburn looking quite perturbed at a woman wearing a revealing blouse. It would take someone hours to look at everything this makeshift "museum" houses, but not to worry, while in the bathroom, there is plenty of entertainment on the walls.
We went with a group of 10 and had the most fun. We started with cocktails (there is a full bar and a healthy wine list) and had a large order of bruscetta and a large order of garlic cheese bread. Yum, yum, yum. Both were priced moderately around $8 and served us all. We ordered a large Caesar salad, which was enough for everyone to have a very small salad. For our entrées we ordered baked ravioli, spaghetti with meatballs, and chicken marsala. Oh my lord, was it a lot of food. But everything was yummy, well seasoned, and cooked perfectly. The bill came to about $20 per person, with only 9 out of 10 paying, and this included our cocktails and some leftovers. So, all in all, it was a rather cheap night.
For a full menu and more info, check out http://www.bucadibeppo.com.
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