A simple, darling space that feels like a comfortable little trattoria in Italia. Despite its casual leanings, however, the food is anything but ordinary.
One of the most special moments during a meal at Il Buco is the inevitable realization halfway through a plate of pasta that this perfectly firm bite of densely comforting spaghetti is served in a brightly lit space full of happy people eagerly cleaning their plates and talking excitedly without any pretension. With a staff happy to provide sharing plates for the entire table to indulge family style, Il Buco has seamlessly delivered on its promise to provide 3-star food in a space that feels like a modest neighborhood kitchen.
A perfect meal at Il Buco should always be framed with a plate of Salumi (prepared in house) in the beginning and a plate of cheeses at the end, both some of the best offered in the city, bringing you as close to a cozy trattoria in Italy as possible. While 5 cheeses for $28 will offer a phenomenal selection (that is best left for the kitchen to decide), you would be forgiven for asking for 5 servings of the Truffle Tremor goat cheese. After one bite with Il Buco's airy bread, I wondered why all cheese wasn't just like this.
In between these soft bites of meat and cheese, the pastas and main courses stand gracefully on their own. Diners should not be afraid of what they assume are heavy morsels of potato when ordering the housemade Roasted Gnocchi, which are surprisingly light and just barely toasted for a little crispy exterior, served with black trumpet and hedgehog mushrooms and caprino stagionato, a thinly shaved Italian goat cheese. It's possibly my favorite dish on the menu.
The Porchetta alla Romana, a savory, fatty, moist and boneless pork roast served with a pile of charred avocado, ambrosia, apples, and wild watercress is another favorite, while the Cacio e Pepe with pecorino Romano and black pepper is another reminder of how Il Buco excels with simple dishes made from the highest quality ingredients. Innovation here is the result of a dedication to the truest and most thoughtful tastes of Italy, presented in exquisite, and still accessible, form.
Although the joy in dining at Il Buco comes partially from the casual dynamism of the space, sometimes service can be a bit too casual, taking away our menus before we ordered our main courses, and squeezing our pasta dishes against our appetizers on our tiny table. But perhaps this is just a nuance that comes with a restaurant that succeeds because of its dedicated search for a relaxed Italian dining standard. When in Rome, right?