This sleek, spare Yorkville space was our 2015 Best New Restaurant. All subsequent visits—and its fast rise up the ranking—remind us why.
Chef Rob Gentile’s idea for this—his third iteration of Buca—was to apply his now familiar mix of tradition and boundary-pushing new thinking to coastal Italian cooking. Pork is out and fish and seafood are in—but salumi and even offal remain a big part of the show. (Where else in the city—or the country—can you peer into an open kitchen and catch the chef giving a sturgeon carcass a spinal tap in order to make his own vesiga?) A meal here begins best with salumi di mare (thin slices of saffron-infused cold-smoked scallop, hot smoked eel or herring, cured yellow fin and maybe some shrimp and scallop sausage). Invest in a bread basket that includes some black squid ink-dyed grissini. Under no condition forgo the raw branzino, sliced tableside and dressed with prosecco and evoo. The seafarer’s carbonara, with traditional guanciale is swapped out for crumbled salty, smoke-cured herring roe is another must, as is the richly reduced zuppa di pesce, topped with a plump and succulent lobster claw. Desserts are strong. The wine list is predictably Italian. Service is smooth and the landlubber wait-staff have at last learned their fish.