The food: nodini and porky foods at Buca
I had lunch with my writer friends and Humber School for Writers colleagues Richard Scrimger and Antanas Sileika this week at Buca, an almost too cool (for me) salumi-centric restaurant on King Street West near Portland in Toronto.
In a converted warehouse type room where large joints of cured meat were on display, meathooks formed part of the design aesthetic, and Food Network host Bob Blumer was on hand, lunching casually at the bar, I was drawn, of course, to the starchy items on the menu.
We started with the nodini, a plate of puffed and browned pizza dough knots sprinkled with salt, rosemary and olive oil. They cost $5 for a plate of 10.
Look at that closeup at the top of the post and you’ll know why I had to try very hard not to eat all of them, an effort made more difficult since Richard refused any, claiming he was not much of a bread-lover. I had no trouble resisting the fried pigs’ ears which he ordered for the table, however, only one and a half of which remained by the time I photographed the plate.
Antanas, a pig’s ear aficionado, had a small complaint that the pieces we were served contained both inner ear (less tender) and outer ear (more of a delicacy as far as ears go, he claims). At least I think that’s what he said, I didn’t hear him too clearly since my fingers were in my ears, while I sang la-la-la and contemplated an instant conversion to vegetarianism.
For a main, the virtuous Richard ordered a salad with figs, which he pronounced most satisfactory though the portion was small for the price and he didn’t finish it (now we know how he maintains his lean and hungry look).
Antanas wanted a meaty pizza, so went for one described on the menu (which apparently changes daily) as featuring a selection of meats for around $17.
He admired the thin crust and didn’t mind being given scissors to cut it with, but was disappointed in the amount of meat that topped it. I thought the crust too thin, and my taste of a pleasant-tasting sliver only reaffirmed my devotion to Neapolitan style pizza in all its puffy glory.
For my main, I ordered the pasta carbonara, also around $16 or $17. The portion was small (first course size), and the affectation of having the waitress mix the raw egg into the hot pasta at the table seemed pointless. Plus I was made to feel (though I might have imagined it) that my request for more grated Parmesan (there was hardly any on the dish!), though it was granted quickly, was the request of a hick. The finished, cheesed-up product was perfectly cooked and delicious though, the rather fatty guanciale notwithstanding. (Perhaps only hicks like their guanciale on the lean side.)
We did not eat dessert, though we were respectively amused, intrigued and disgusted by the idea of the Pork Blood and Chocolate Espresso Tart listed on the dessert menu, and retained those opinions after the waitress explained that the pork blood doesn’t so much flavour the tart as contribute to its texture. Enough said.