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Buca de Beppo Kentlands - Why do they get a bad rap?

Just ate for the 2nd time in a month at Buca Di Beppo in Kentlands (Gaithersburg, MD) and each meal was spectacular. Yes, you heard that right, spectacular, for what it was, amazing, delicious Italian food for reasonable money.

The first time was with 12 guys and we had a blast. Ordered 2 huge appetizer mixed platters of assorted seafood items and mozzarella stix and it mostly was delicious. The salads were decent, not great, but decent. We tried 2 of these after our appetizers. Then we had 6 small main courses which we mostly all split. 1 main course feeds 2 or 3 people. The spaghetti and meatballs was my pick and was most excellent with 2 massive meat balls. The eggplant parm was wonderful as were the penne with sausage and other main courses. For dessert we all split pretty much every dessert on the menu and all were great sans the Tiramesu which the guys at the other end said wasn't that great. The cheesecake was out of this world and we even ordered an extra apple crisp it was so good.

I ate there again this past weekend on Sunday at the kitchen table thats... in the kitchen. This time I took our daughter, her friend that wasn't that hungry, and my wife. We loved it and ordered the garlic bread which was out of this world. We split 1 salad and it fed all of us. Then we all split 1 small ravioli which was one of the best ravioli's we have ever had. Incredible flavor and wonderful sauce. The perfect ravioli, really. We also split a small side dish of fettucini alfredo which was also yummy. For dessert we split 1 piece of the $10 chocolate cake it was one of the best ones we've ever had. Perfect texture of soft and hard with a super rich but not ridiculously rich sweetness. For $50 for 4 of us, we ate like kings. We used the $10 off coupon from the Washington Post too :o). Sitting in the kitchen was really cool for a one time trial. They showed us every single dish up close before they brought it out into the dining room. Because it was a slow Sunday afternoon, it wasn't too crazy in the kitchen at 330pm when we got there. They paraded people that were about to dine in the dining room by us the whole time we ate letting them know they could reserve our table one day if they were lucky. We just walked in that day and it happened to be available.

So why do people rag on this place? It's one of the best Italian restaurants around in my book, for simple, delicious, non-complicated, Italian. We've tried most of the expensive Italian joints in town from Tosca in DC to Cesco, La Panaterria and Pasta Plus in the burbs, and we've now found our favorite new place.

Cheers,
Steve R
Silver Spring MD

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  1. I love Buca de Beppo... I have been to many all over the USA and Love it every time. It is my favorite chain resto. You cant beat the price and the chow is great :)
    Brian the Fooddude in California :)

    1. I haven't been to the one in the Kentlands, although I live in Maryland. My family in Florida loves to go to the ones in the Orlando area. We've never had any issues with the food and enjoy the family-style dining. So few places do family-style any more.

      3 Replies
      1. re: AlyKen

        Wow, this is weird. I posted this on our local Washington DC area board and it got immediately moved here. Man, these moderators are really on top of this stuff. I'm really surprised it got moved, as I was hoping for a local response, but I appreciate the responses you've offered already. Glad to hear I'm not the only one who loves this place.

        1. re: stever500

          Stever, I had that happen to me with something I posted on the Boston board being immediately moved to New England because I put 2 Boston suburbs in the title.

          I would love to go out to the Buca in the Kentlands, but it's a little too far from BWI. I wish they'd put one closer to where I live.

          1. re: stever500

            You got moved because you asked a question about why people rag on BdB, not about that particular location. If you had talked about the parking situation or bad service there or something specific, they would have left it on that Board.

            That being said- if you think of it as "food", it is good food. Fresh and tasty. If you think of it as "Italian", it isn't.

        2. We love Buca. I think some of the reasons it gets a bad rap from some people is that it is a chain and the food is Italian-American rather than what is thought of as pure Italian. But some of my favorite meals as a kid were those rare occasions we found a "real" Italian restaurant when we were in a bigger city. Those "real" being the 1960's ish Americanized Italian restaurants.

          I have had people tell me that I "had" to try the original Buca in downtown Mpls. the one not part of the chain. The original owner sold the concept to the restaurant chain that runs it. We always found the food at the chain versions in Mpls to be good quality and worth it. Most items do appear to be made from scratch.

          I think it is part chain snobbery, part seeing the Americanized Italian as not authentic and possibly they ran into a poorly run location? I have found some other chains vary drastically from one location to another.

          1 Reply
          1. re: blackpointyboots

            I agree with the chain snobbery thing. Buca is what it is. Their sausage is pretty good, compared to the awfully precious "charcuterie" stuff that seems to be the coin of the realm at the "authentic" boutique Italian restaurants. Some folks just want decent pasta, affordable wine, red check tablecloths, and to leave without a bill for the month's rent. You can do a lot worse than Buca.

          2. I ate at Buca one time, and do not feel a great desire to return. The food and service were ok, but nothing to rave about at all. In my opinion it is an average chain restaurant, and I place its quality just below a Maggianos.

            If I want Italian food, I either cook it myself, or go to a small family run restaurant in Chicago.

            1 Reply
            1. re: swsidejim

              I've been twice and I did think the food and service were very good, even went one time with my Mother in law who is Italian and she thought the food was delicious. The thing that keeps me from going back is the noise, I seriously felt like I was being screamed at the whole time I was there.......may just be the two locations here in Southern California but I cringe when I think about how uncomfortable eating there was for me.

            2. My relay race team went to Buca de Beppo the night before our 187 mile run. The food was not memorable, but not bad either. I'd pin it as Italian-American red sauce food straight out of the 1950s. Shared the garlic bread and caesar salad to start - nothing interesting here. Then split: penne campofiore, spaghetti marinara, gnocchi, fettuccine supremo, chicken marsala, side of meatballs, margherita pizza, and the docle platter. Possibly more; I feel like I'm forgetting something. The penne and the pizza were good, but everything else was mediocre. The gnocchi were downright bad. As were the meatballs. The alfredo sauce was gloopy, thick, and tasteless and the marinara sauce had an acidic aftertaste. Most of the desserts on the dolce platter were still frozen in the middle. Part of the issue may be that I just don't really like marinara or alfredo sauce, so the only dishes I really liked were those that weren't covered with the goop.

              I guess it fits a niche somewhere, and we certainly carbloaded the hell out of that meal.