Sometimes, we dream that we’re in an old farmhouse in the Italian countryside. There are copper pots and pans hanging everywhere, and everything we eat comes directly from the animals we raise and our garden outside.
Unlike other dreams, such as the ones in which we’re Indiana Jones, we can come pretty close to recreating the one described above by heading to Il Buco. A meal at this restaurant—which opened as an antique store in 1994—is a rustic escape from the city, and you’ll prefer the waking version of your life once you taste their pastas, risotto, and meats.
The starters at Il Buco are pleasant enough, but it’s the mains that really shine. The bistecca with salsa rossa and the lamb chops with herb yogurt are both flawlessly cooked and deeply flavorful, and just a single bowl of the wonderful spaghetti with lobster never seems like enough. If you have to order just one thing, though, get what might be the best risotto in the city. Everything about it is just right. (But you should know that getting only one entrée is a terrible idea.)
Just like we’re glad Harrison Ford didn’t stick with carpentry, we’re happy Il Buco didn’t limit itself to selling ornate chairs from the 1870s. The food here is consistently strong, and when you look around, you’ll feel like you’re in someone’s home. Our guess is that this place is filled every night with people who come here often. After one visit, you’ll want to become a regular too.
Note: The components of each dish change often at Il Buco, and the text-heavy Italian and Spanish menu goes into great detail regarding where the restaurant sources all its ingredients.
The sweet strawberry juice tones down the acid, so you can really taste the fish (branzino on the night we went) in this ceviche. Fennel and jalapeño are added for some crunch and subtle heat. This starter is the ideal first course.
We really have no right to be disappointed with this dish. The menu promises pan-fried, shell-on king prawns with sea salt, and that’s exactly what you get. Simple can be great, but in this case, it’s a little boring. Order something else.
Torchio is a thick, kind of twisty, sort of bell-shaped macaroni. (Pasta shapes are funny.) Squash, veal sausage, and shaved ricotta salata are tossed in, resulting in a dish that feels very homey. Eating this makes us want to lay down on a bear skin rug in front of a fireplace.
This spaghetti is the best pasta here, but it utterly confuses us. We are told that there’s no butter in it, and that the pasta is cooked in just olive oil and reduced white wine—but all we (think we) taste is butter. How? Some seafood (cod or lobster, for example) and chilis are usually mixed in.
The tagliatelle is one of Il Buco’s fresh pastas, and it usually comes with shaved truffles and parmigiano. This is a perfectly good bowl of carbs, but we prefer the dried pasta dishes. They just taste better.
We try not to use the word “perfect” to describe food because, as we all know, nothing is perfect—except for this risotto. It’s usually made with vegetables like squash, English peas, or chanterelles along with cheese such as pecorino Toscano or taleggio.
By the time this wagyu skirt steak with salsa rossa and roasted sweet potatoes came to the table, we were stuffed. We ate it all anyway. The next time we want a steak, we’re coming back here.
This plate of tender lamb chops on top of black rice is really balanced. There’s tartness from red currants, bitterness and crunch from greens, and sourness and creaminess from yogurt. When you’re done with this dish, you’ll want more.