Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > B.C. (inc. Vancouver) >
Mar 27, 2008 10:59 PM

La Buca (Vancouver)

I couldn't find a thread that focussed on my favourite neighbourhood trattoria so I thought I'd have a go at starting one. Then I thought, do I really want to advertise how tasty, good value, great service and a cozy room combined with free and easy parking are all rolled into such a wee spot that it's going to be even harder to get a reso? So I thought better of it and decided not to post. But then I started reliving my recent birthday dinner there and how much I enjoyed it, and decided to go ahead. This is the kind of place you find people of all ages, celebrating events or just that it's Tuesday. When we went last weekend we even had a Brush with Fame as Brent Butt and his lovely SO and fellow Corner Gas-er Nancy Robertson were on their way out as we arrived. Now if I could only bring myself to order something other than the short ribs as a main... mmm, short ribs... and the panna cotta... oh yeah...

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Does a person still have to enter the kitchen to use the toilet?

    11 Replies
    1. re: Sam Salmon

      They're transitioning to an open kitchen concept ;)

        1. re: JWh

          Oops, still haven't got used to adding the linkies...

          La Buca Restaurant
          4025 MacDonald St, Vancouver, BC V6L2N8, CA

      1. re: Sam Salmon

        As of last weekend, you still have to go through the kitchen to the loo. And while that has its obvious downsides, we always get a kick out of saying hey to the busy but affable cooking staff :-).

        1. re: grayelf

          Just discovered that La Buca does not accept resos for parties larger than 4 on Friday and Saturday night (unless you are willing to go right at opening). Was hoping to take my mum there for her bday next Sat but alas we are six...

          1. re: grayelf

            The birthday celebrant wanted La Buca so we switched to Sunday, praise be. This is now my best meal ever. The staff suggested we order "a la famiglia" and let the kitchen decide what we would have. Good call. For $45 each we gnarled our way through the following: salumi plate (4 kinds from Oyama in Granville Island including the best prosciutto I've ever had in or out of Italy), ridiculously tasty grilled bread (I think this was my bro's favourite), panfried alpine cheese with tomato fondue and arugula salad (great combination of flavours and textures, lovely presentation), spicy prawns in lemon, chili and garlic vinaigrette with herb salad (a fairly traditional dish, very tasty, prawns a tad overdone), wild mushroom risotto (which I liked, and I'm not a big mushroom fan, and my dad said was the best risotto he's ever had, in or out of Italy), a shortish pasta whose names evades me con panna (classic cream, pancetta and peas concoction, SO's fave dish), agnolotti with braised lamb (again, blew me away as I normally avoid lamb like the plague and gobbled this dish up, so tender and no musky taste, and the mint, pea and ricotta stuffed pasta was flawless). crispy roast chicken tasting subtly of lemon, rosemary, garlic and black pepper with contorni of zucchini in garlic butter and simply steamed skinny asparagus, and finally the kicker: beef tenderloin in a light balsamic dressing topped with fresh arugula and shavings of romano (I think). Outside seared to slightly crispy perfection, inside almost blue rare but not bloody at all, buttery smooth but with great flavour, nicely complemented by the sweet zip of the balsamic, the tangy greens and the salty goodness of the sparingly applied cheese. An elegant sufficiency of food, okay we were all pretty stuffed, but it wasn't too over the top, and we somehow managed to polish off three desserts (not included in the set price but I couldn't do without a few bites of the beloved pannacotta), coffees for three, not to mention a couple of bottles of a red that was widely adored and called by the excellent name of Apollonio Squinzano, a 2001 vintage from Puglia, going for a reasonable $35 each. We waddled out 2.5 hours later and at $80 per person tax and tip included (although of course we paid for Mum!) thought it was a top value for a deluxe meal. Service was gracious, attentive and thoughtful, and the kitchen staff seemed very appreciative when I did a Wayne's World in honour of the not-on-the-menu tenderloin on my way to the WC :-).

            1. re: grayelf

              For our 8th anniversary we hit La Buca on a recent Wednesday night, so I thought I'd post about the weekday experience. As noted above, they take resos for larger parties then so this was the first time we'd dined when a big group was present (looked like an office party).

              We were concerned at first because although not rowdy the group was loud but we got used to it. The food was as usual no disappointment. I started with the caprese salad to take advantage of the local tomatoes and had the lamb agnolotti which was as good if not better as in April as a main. The SO went for daily specials for both: a layered shellfish app that I couldn't try because of a bivalve sensitivy which he pronounced excellent and the bucatini with an eggs-only (no cream) carbonara sauce that was unctuous and perfectly prepped.

              After dinner Chef Andre walked out into the dining room and stopped at our table, whereupon I ventured to mention we had grown up a block apart and he had been chums with my brother. We had a delightful conversation about that and other things, including the dearth of good pizza places here and his abortive plan to take over the recently vacant next door space for a pizzeria a la Durbach (oh, what might have been). All in all, a pretty great way to celebrate.

              1. re: grayelf

                >> We had a delightful conversation about that and other things, including the dearth of good pizza places here and his abortive plan to take over the recently vacant next door space for a pizzeria a la Durbach (oh, what might have been).

                Damn! That indeed would have been great.

                1. re: grayelf


                  the family style dinner in particular sounds wonderful...I am not that familiar with Vancouver spots, is Buca associated with Parkside or it that Durbach?

                  1. re: grayelf

                    I really enjoyed your reviews on this place. I've never even heard of La Buca! Thanks for sharing, sounds so yummy! And Happy Anniversary!

                    1. re: ck1234

                      Thanks, ck1234. La Buca is obviously a favourite of ours, a true neighbourhood trattoria the likes of which should be in every 'hood I think (side note: Faux Bourgeois looks like it might be in a similar vein though French -- will report back when I've tried it). I'm very keen on consistency, which they attain. We've only ever had one dish (the chicken liver app) that disappointed.

                      Bob Mac, La Buca is Chef Durbach's second resto that is still around (his third is Pied a Terre on Cambie which I alas have yet to try). Parkside was his first and is still in the Durbach stable, so I surmise with three places on the go the pizza idea was too much. He seems so astute about the business of food as well as being a super chef that I can't doubt his decision but I can certainly mourn the lost possibilities :-).

          2. We had such an awesome time at La Buca last night, I'm totally inspired to post about it. Alas, there was a lot of wine, so it'll have to be brief. While we've been there a few times in the past, last night was the first time we rounded up a couple friends for the a la famiglia experience. Oh so fun. Platter upon platter of food came our way in a perfect pace for, in retrospect, hours on end. We had three salads: asparagus has never been so perfectly crisp and it should be illegal to eat there without trying their version of a Ceasar with bitter greens. Luckily no one got hurt in the mad stabbing for the last bits of pancetta. We had perfect truffled gnocci with a lovely ragout. We managed just barely not to lick the dish. The spagetti was not my fave, but it too disappeared. Then there was a fish plate with sole (not so) and nice mussels. Then there were cute little rabbit pucks on spinach, and finally a huge platter of Florentine steak, deep fried onion rings and arugula. Oh and let's not forget the side dish of vegetables with stuffed zucchini chunks (yum) and peas (frozen peas - why oh why bother?). THEN there was, yes indeed, a plate of dessert which included desserts, doughnuts (OK beignets), chocolate cake and some other things lost in the mist of wine.
            Was it as much food as it sounds? I guess so, but it seemed reasonable at the time! Also this place has the best service in town (IMHO), very friendly yet also unobtrusive and so freaking efficient. Such a good evening.

            1 Reply
            1. re: waver

              Thanks for the report, waver -- good timing for me as we have a reso tonight and I've printed this out to see if we can get us some of those beignets which I've been hearing about, and also the Caesar which I haven't tried. What I like about the family style dining is that you seem to get items that aren't on the regular menu. It's time to go with a group again, as it's been a whole year for us!

            2. There goes the the value and easy access to this gem

              1. I must say, our last visit to La Buca was quite disappointing. We went less than a month ago, and although nothing was terrible, nothing stood out as spectacular, except for the zeppoli. We ordered 4 dishes and shared them all - I kinda got that feeling like "wow, I can make this at home and probably a bit better". I really wanted to like it (it was my birthday) but it just didn't cut it. We'll probably give L'altro Buca a shot when it opens. I'll certainly miss Parkside.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Quattrociocchi

                  Hey felix, I don't quite get your comment. Won't the access be easier if there are two?

                  L'altro is officially open, I understand from another site, Qc. Sorry to hear you had a bad visit. We are still batting .1000, with another successful feast on Saturday night quite literally under our belts. The only drawback (and this had nothing to do with the resto) was that we both had colds so we missed some of the nuances of flavour.

                  We each had a glass of wine (I'm white, he's red) and then an appetizer (veal sausage on polenta special for him, beloved agnolotti with lamb sugo for me). We both realized we'd never had the steak that waver enjoyed upthread, so we went for that. It was actually a bit dull in presentation (looked like a salad!) but really delivered on taste -- even through the colds -- quality and texture.

                  For dessert I had to have the panna cotta because I can't help myself but as soon as the word "zeppole" escaped the server's lips, I knew an order was coming our way. I missed these in San Francisco just last week, where they only come out on a particular saint's day apparently, so I was chuffed to try them here. And they were stupid good, crunchy outside, warm, light and tender inside, hint o' cinnamon and sugar rolled, accompanied by poached apples, dulce de leche-ish sauce and a dollop of something creamy and tangy. Yowza. I think I polished off 3/4 of both, but hey, it was my birthday :-). Bill before tip: $128.

                  Here's a few pix (none of the mains as they really did look just like salads till you dug in)

                  1. re: grayelf

                    Grayelf, I think we have the same birthday(21st)? Good place to celebrate, eh? Thanks for the name of those things - zeppole - and the photos of your appetizers, they look great.

                    Felix, were you referring to the fact that there was a thread about La Buca in general? If so a) la Buca is hardly an undiscovered gem, it is always packed and frequently referenced in Vancouver chowthreads; b) this particular thread is already a year old; and, c) the fact that a new (and larger) one has opened up downtown should be good news for those of us who love our neighbourhood "gem" as it is (although it is sad about Parkside). But perhaps I misread your comment?

                    1. re: waver

                      My comment about access was only half facetious. It was a reference to the old dilemma we sometimes face when writing about small restaurants we like: that it might become more difficult to get a reservation and that quality might suffer with popularity. In my experience very few restaurants grow or multiply and manage to maintain quality.

                      On the other hand we owe it to our fellow hounds to spread the good news