Our experts pick Yorkville’s Buca Osteria & Bar as top new dining destination.
The sad truth about great new restaurants is that they don’t come around very often. Most happening new places thrive exclusively by virtue of their novelty—and when that wears off, the holes in their capes quickly start to show. Crowds dwindle, the buzz grows silent and the doors close. To beat that cycle and keep diners around and regularly coming back for more requires substance—lots of it.
Buca Osteria & Bar (or Buca Yorkville, as everyone calls it) has plenty of it. Its location and décor are as well-suited to its concept as is the King Street West boiler room that is home to its first-born older sibling—the ultra-urban and grittily authentic Buca Osteria & Enoteca. The service is slick and the waitstaff knowledgeable. But really, its enduring appeal comes down to what’s on the plate. And that is almost exclusively fish and seafood.
Rob Gentile and his chef de cuisine Ryan Campbell have done an exceptional job at creating a broad offering of seafood dishes that are grounded in Italian tradition—and, at the same time, are highly creative. The salume di mare platters, from their chilled lobster and scallop sausage and octopus soppressata to the thin-sliced cured tuna, and cold-smoked eel, are captivating in their originality. Even their crudos, like the whole raw sea bass with lemon juice, olive oil and prosecco, are a big cut above the rest of the field.
Then come highly original pastas, like carbonara made with herring roe in place of guanciale. The array of fish is extensive, and if not farmed, then responsibly harvested—as well as being Canadian, wherever possible. Here, that does not mean salmon, char and halibut. Think instead princess scallops, organically farmed white sturgeon from BC, eel and cod tongues. This is the only-fish focussed Italian restaurant in the country that offers tasting menus, at seven or 16 courses. And it is the only Italian seafood restaurant we have with a kitchen that has the range to justify it. Try one sometime.
In our national poll of experts, Buca finished in 43rd place, higher than any other restaurant in the country that opened in the last calendar year. That makes it our Best New Restaurant for 2015. And deservedly so.