Our writ­ers eat their way through the up­town menu with a $100 bud­get

North Toronto Post - - Contents - By Caro­line Ak­sich and Karolyne El­la­cott

Can our res­i­dent food­ies fill their bel­lies at Bar Buca for un­der $100?

We came for meat­less Mon­day but ended up eat­ing horse. So it goes when faced with the meat-rid­dled menu at the new Bar Buca Eglin­ton, the younger sib to the Port­land Street Ital­ian snack bar. The glassedin cor­ner spot from chef-preneur Rob Gen­tile is a foodie-primed ad­di­tion to the con­struc­tion-ad­dled strip.

A lack­lus­tre in­tro­duc­tion

We’re told to sit wher­ever we please as it’s all com­mu­nal. Menus are plunked on the ta­ble, and we’re in­formed of the con­cept: “shar­ing.” The spiel is over. For­tu­nately, both of us are fa­mil­iar with the style of menu, but an ounce of gre­gar­i­ous­ness from our seem­ingly rushed server would have been ap­pre­ci­ated.

Armed with our $100, as al­ways, the menu is given the thrice-over. Meat and seafood in­fuse ev­ery part of the list, though we opt to squeeze in a salad (for health!). A rea­son­able amount of food is checked off. Plus there’s money for drinks! The in­fu­sioni di Buca ($12) in­trigue. Caro­line goes ar­ti­choke (or car­ciofo); Karolyne opts for the bit­ter al­mond man­dorla amara. Both de­light, though the lat­ter is the favourite.

The share­able feast ar­rives

The pa­rade of dishes be­gins be­fore the drinks hit the ta­ble — the tip­ples ar­rive sep­a­rately, well af­ter the fried curls of the trippa (hon­ey­comb tripe) ($6) have been hoovered. We graze on bianchetti ($6), tiny mouth­fuls of what feel like ex­cit­ingly fishy shoe­string fries. Slabs of house-made bread (fet­tunta) ($4) are rubbed in gar­lic and driz­zled lightly with olive oil , and we work to sop up the re­main­ing juices from the afore­men­tioned salad ($12), which flaunts about eight seg­ments of aran­cia rossa (blood or­ange), one agrodolce olive per slice and a ru­mour of fen­nel.

The dishes de­light our din­ers

The cav­allo saltim­bocca ($18) ar­rives ready to share, as ex­pected in Bu­ca­town. Sourced from a farm in Cal­gary, the horse is dressed sim­ply with lemon and ca­pers.

The steak is fol­lowed by sarde in saor ($16), a spear of sar­dines that tastes a day past its prime dolled up in puck­ery sea buck­thorn berries; we like the con­cept, but the mouth­fuls don’t hit the mark. Yet the Pugliese-style pizza — the lardo di colonata ($14) — is a redeemer of a dish, its puffy crust pa­pered with slips of sa­lumi and fin­ished with pis­ta­chio crum­bles and wild­flower honey. Warm, salty, sweet, it’s ev­ery­thing. If our bud­get had al­lowed, an­other would have been or­dered promptly. It’s one of the stand­outs from a meal-to-share that did well on the food but un­der­whelmed with the ser­vice.

Clock­wise from top: The lardo di colonata pizza, chef Rob Gen­tile, and trippa

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