Il Buco of Beverly Hills

If a successful restaurant is not owned by Puck or Splichal, you can bet it belongs to one of the Drago brothers.  We visited the ten-year-old  Il Buco on North Robertson in Beverly Hills the other day.  It takes its name from its size: a small, square room, clean and reeking with garlic and tomatoes. Lovely, colorful lights above, warm candles aglow on each table below, soft music drifting through the room, with a large staff, ready, willing and able to serve. Mr. Drago knows what a restaurant needs.

Everetta, their cordial, amiable hostess greeted us at the door, inviting us to take whichever table we wished.  I love sitting next to my lady on a banquette-style table while looking out at the entire dining scene; the solid, wooden table pulled close.  I forgot to inquire where the bread was baked, but please take it easy here for it is so good and there's more, much more about to arrive.

Il Buco's menu is enormous with many choices in each department: Insalates, Antipasti & Zuppes, Paninis; Le Pizzes, Pastes & Risottos and Il Secondis. Prices are in the low-medium range so you should be able to eat for two at or around $50, without alcohol.

We shared the Allegra salad: arugula, tomato, mozzarella, avocado, hearts of palm, shaved Parmesan and a thick slice of Parma, all bathed in a balsamic vinaigrette. Our waiter also brought some lemon dressing on the side which I recommend you add gently, for the mix was a solid delight. Most ample portion, most refreshing taste, and we both finished our plates with their bread catching all the flavors to the very last drop. I wanted to taste their Minestrone for it is one of my favorite items in any Italian dinner. Fresh, diced vegetables in a light, hot, savory broth, it had reminiscences of "old world" about it. All the Dragos bring the past into the present and it is one reason for their ever constant success. Simply the best.

Because of my Bronx background, any place serving pizza piques my curiosity: will this be the best pizza I've ever eaten? Il Buco's is the flat kind, but the cheese, tomato and crust score a strong  "B+"; Caioti and Pizza Mozza remain an "A".  Fran's Ossobuco con Polenta, a braised veal shank served on a bed of soft polenta did receive an "A" for flavor, tenderness, portion size and price ($21); it may well be one of the best in the city.  And I would score my spaghetti Alla Amalfitana the same high grade for the load of shrimp, clams, scallops, calamari, and mussels in a thick, savory, spicy tomato sauce – each forkful more tasty than the last.  A true bargain under $20 because it is enough for two, perhaps three, people.

An order of homemade cannoli took us over the top, wrapping up an evening's repast beautifully. There is no doubt that Il Buco has passed the Feinstein test for it will be my Italian place of choice in Beverly Hills for many years to come. And, when you decide to go, please remember to tell 'em Giuseppe sent you.

Il Buco, 107 North Robertson Blvd. Beverly Hills CA 90211 Tel. 310-657-1345 Note: They have a banquet room separated, but attached to their main restaurant.  (I can offer not one criticism of any experience we had at Il Buco – not one!)