53 SCOLLARD STREET, TORONTO, ONTARIO
THIS SLEEK, SPARE YORKVILLE SPACE WAS OUR 2015 BEST NEW RESTAURANT.
All subsequent visits remind us why it has maintained a spot in the top 10 each year since. Chef Rob Gentile’s idea for this—his third iteration of Buca—was to apply his now-familiar mix of tradition and boundary-pushing 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: choose from 10 offerings, including octopus salami with preserved lemon, hot-smoked eel or wild Atlantic sturgeon, cured yellowfin, and scallop and lobster 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 lemon. The polipo e vongole—braised octopus with B.C. clams, veal bone marrow, cavolo nero and fregola sarda—is another must, as is the richly reduced zuppa di pesce, topped with a plump and succulent lobster claw. Desserts are strong, and sweets get even more play at brunch, where Castagnole—mini-doughnuts stuffed with dulce de leche crema—are not to be missed. Cocktails are intriguing and well-executed and the wine list is predictably Italian. Service is smooth and the landlubber wait-staff have at last learned their fish.
Monday to Friday
11:30 AM until 3:00 PM
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday
5:00 PM until 10:00 PM
Thursday to Saturday
5:00 PM until 11:00 PM
10:30 AM until 3:00 PM
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MAT FABIJANIC