Il Buco

21. February 2007 East Village, Italian, Mediterranean 0

47 Bond Street between Lafayette and Bowery
$180 for four people with a bottle of wine, without tip

We wanted to eat at Il Buco ever since we walked by one night and took a peek inside. Candles were lit that made the ambiance romantic and rustic at the same time. We just knew that it would be a nice place to sit, eat and drink wine with good company. Four of us finally booked a table one cold, winter night to do exactly just that. We could only get a 6pm table with a week’s notice, so we took it. Unfortunately, we were seated right next to the entrance of the wine cellar. Cozy it wasn’t. It looked like they were conducting a field trip down the basement. Guests kept walking in and stepping back out and I kept interrupting our table’s conversation by pushing the door closed to keep the draft from coming in. Our waitress never made a move to transfer us to an unoccupied table even though the restaurant was not completely full before 8pm. We had to ask the bus boy for more bread and olive oil because our waitress kept forgetting us. But since the bus boy only came by to take our plates away, we never had enough.

The menu is Mediterranean, a cuisine that I can enjoy any time, with some Italian specialities. But nothing in the menu made my heart palpitate. The special of the night was braised oxtails on mashed potatoes which I make at home for less than $30. An appetizer portion of baby eels were ordered, only to be canceled when our waitress informed us that it was going to cost us $75.

We ended up ordering the octopus with Umbrian chickpeas and parsley, the bass with fresh pomegranate, lime, red chili and cilantro, the cod with fennel, lemon and red onion with mint salsa verde, the fennel-crusted sashimi-grade tuna and the beef carpaccio. The small plates were at least $12 each. They were all delicious but a little hard on the wallet. We also decided to order full plates of the pappardelle with black trumpet mushrooms and the gnocchi. The pasta servings were so small. I can’t imagine getting them as half orders.

Il Buco is like waking up startled in the middle of a beautiful dream.