Kiyo and I had the pleasure of being invited to celebrate National Lasagna Day this Monday at the new Buca di Beppo in New York City. Located in the heart of Times Square, this is their 99th location, and the third one I’ve been to (the other two are Honolulu and Minneapolis).
We began dinner with house wine and two salads. The first included Granny Smith apples, spiced walnuts, dried cranberries and Gorgonzola tossed with mixed lettuce in Italian vinaigrette. The toppings were perfect together; crunchy, sweet, spiced and smooth.
The second was less exciting: mixed lettuce tossed in signature Italian vinaigrette with red onions, pepperoncini peppers and black and green olives. I preferred the toppings on the first salad but the vinaigrette tasted better for some reason on the second salad. It was very acidic, in a good way, and Kiyo and I both kept refilling our plates.
There were only three people at our table, so we ate a lot! The kind waitstaff served us three appetizers:
- Mini meatballs, made with Italian cheese blend, sauteed in homemade marinara, served with house-baked Italian bread
- Fried calamari served with homemade spicy marinara sauce
- Bruschetta: roma tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, red onions, basil-infused olive oil and balsamic vinegar, served with Parmesan crostinis
I don’t like calamari so I can’t comment on it, but the other two appetizers were great. The crunchy, oily crostini bread was so delicious that I couldn’t stop eating it even though it made me pretty full; and we still had two courses left! I also really enjoyed the flavor of the meatballs.
Three of us got to share three different lasagna: regular, vegetarian and chicken. The regular lasagna is simple and classic, with layers of meat sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, provolone and Parmesan. The chicken lasagna replaced the meat sauce with sliced chicken breast, and we all agreed that the novelty of it made it our favorite of the three. At first I was skeptical of the vegetarian one, but the rich mornay sauce won me over. I hadn’t eaten lasagna in forever and it was surprisingly delicious; a true comfort food. Actually, I only ever really eat lasagna that my aunt makes in Minnesota, so I associate it with family, as I’m sure many people do.
As if we hadn’t eaten enough at this point, next out came dessert: lava cake! The cake was served with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and raspberry sauce. The cake itself was ok but the good part was the molten middle, or the “lava.”
Yesterday I read a hilarious article about chain restaurants, and it made me think of this restaurant. Although I generally think that chains are no good, I do love Buca di Beppo. It’s the perfect place for a family meal or for a large group of friends, since the portions are so big. It’s also the type of comfort food that is simple but good, that everyone can enjoy. And from the classic Italian movie posters on the wall to Andrea Bocelli music in the background, the place is just the perfect amount of kitschy to be really fun.
Buca di Beppo
Open: Sunday – Thursday 11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m., Friday & Saturday 11:00 a.m.-midnight
Location: 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036 Phone: (212) 764-6527