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Nov 2, 2009 05:51 AM

Cafe La Buca in Pompano

After reading the Sun Sentinel review we thought we'd give it a try. What an experience. If you are looking for ambience, just don't go. Tables don't match, chairs don't match, no ambience lighting. That being said, the food is unbelievable. They have a menu but I never saw it. They just kept bringing us food until we begged for mercy.

We started with a small portion of what I would call a braised veal stew, complete with fresh bread for dipping. Next came homeade lasagna and gnocchi, followed by a salt baked branzino. All superb. I think they bake all different kinds of bread throughout the evening. Your bread may differ from your neighbor's.

The family interactions in the open kitchen (I think 2 brothers, a wife, and of course, "mama") are all of the entertainment you will need.

Dessert was a "calzone" filled with Nutella and ricotta cheese. I devoured it.

No liquor license. Bring your own wine (no corking fee)

Very reasonably priced, especially when you consider both volume and quality.

The address printed in the Sun Sentinel is wrong. It's Cypress Rd, not Cypress Creek. Call for reservations. You will need them. Ask for "Marco"

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  1. I live about a block from that place and never even noticed it until the Sun Sentinel review. Looks like it should be a cheap chinese takeout place, but the food is great.

    We started with the eggplant caprese and a bowl of the escarole and beans. Both were excellent.

    Since we got there later in the evening (around 9 on a saturday night), lots of food was already 86'd but we went with what they brought us. Lasagna and gnocchi.

    We also got the nutella dessert. I didn't think I was gonna be able to eat anything else after all the food they brought out, but I couldn't help but finish that thing off.

    The wife and I will prolly go again this weekend, but I'm gonna make sure to get an earlier reservation to make sure we don't miss anything.

    I think our bill before tip for 2 apps, entrees and the dessert was $57.

    2 Replies
    1. re: swoll50

      Good food - felt RIPPED OFF - Beware when not ordering from the menu

      We went last night (11/13) - party of 4. We also read the Sun Sentinel Review and decided to let Marco bring us whatever he wanted to. Started out with stuffed Zucchini, one tomato layered in muzzarella and what appeared to be a thin slice of fried eggplant and 4 large shrimp - all were pretty good. He brought out 1 fish dish, we each had a few bites - excellent. One Osso Bucco - very tender, again just a few bites per person. Since one of the 4 tables extended their stay they asked us for desert right away - WE WERE STILL HUNGRY! Marco put together a chicken dish from a tray that was on display in front and I asked for some Pasta. Now we were ready for desert - they produced a plate with 4 mini cannoli, 4 bite sized pieces of cheese cake, tiramisu and a custard with strawberrys - 2 espressos and one cappuccino. Grand total $212.00 PLUS tax
      They charges us $36 for the Osso Bucco, $35 for the fish, one plate of pasta split 4 ways $28 - When I confronted them about the prices I was told by Luciano they he would make it up to me the next time I came in - THERE WON'T BE A NEXT TIME.

      1. re: bocajag

        hmm, that's way higher than anything we've had there. The wife and I went again last night and here was our menu.

        Escarole and Beans
        Eggplant Caprese (awesome)
        Meatballs and red sauce
        Chicken Rollatini

        Total bill was $47.55 plus tip.

    2. This place is a great authentic little spot. Tried their wood oven pizza is easily one of the best thin crust pizzas I've had in South Florida. Loved the taste of the dough and sauce. All of their pastas are fresh. Their rigatoni was cooked perfectly al dente and the accompanying pesto was very nice. Their gnocchi paired with delicious sauce and cheese was another winner.

      Must do for all pizza and pasta fans.

      9 Replies
      1. re: The Chowfather

        Any more recent reports on this restaurant? Sounds almost like a south Florida version of Dominick's in the Bronx..(??) The BYOB aspect is a is still bring your own?


          1. re: erica

            In answer to my own question of a few weeks ago:

            Four of us had dinner here last night. They have two seatings, at 6pm and 8:30pm and you must book in advance, as we saw a few hopeful diners w/o reservations turned away at the door. (They do offer take-out, however).

            As noted above, the place is simple and plain, with harsh lighting. Reminds me of a typical trattoria in Naples or Bari, complete with glass case of antipasti in front, from which you can choose selections for your first course. (Offerings last night included zucchini scapece, grilled eggplant, roasted red peppers with black olives, marinated mushrooms, portobello topped with spinach, tomato and mozzarella, stuffed sausage, a layered baked pasta, and others). Italian-speaking diners filled several of the tables.

            The restaurant is BYOB, and there is a liquor store in the shopping center across the street (a few doors north of Calypso restaurant).

            Service is efficient, with server orally reciting the day's dishes; there is no paper menu. The dining area is divided into two rooms, the front room with the open kitchen and pizza oven, and a larger and more airy back room. Decorations are confined to panoramic shots of Vesuvius looming over Naples, laminated and framed reviews from local pubications, and black and white photos.

            I will list what we consumed, with prices, to give an idea of general costs.

            1 imported bottled water $6.

            Antipasti, chosen from the case:

            Portobello mushroom topped with spinach, tomato and mozzarella (mozzarella is house-made, and the restaurant buys burrata from Mozzarita in Pompano, according to the owner). We had two of these, at $6 each, and shared them among the four of us. Very tasty, despite the pallid tomato.

            Roast peppers. Strips of marinated yellow and red bell peppers studded with oil-cured black olives. Excellent rendition of this classic dish. Recommended! $10.99.

            These were accompanied by excellent knots of bread baked from pizza dough. Addictive!

            Four of us shared two pasta dishes for the first course; this is a good plan for diners with limited appetites who plan to order second courses. Each serving of pasta can comfortably be shared by two persons; together with a few antipasti, this would complete a satisfying meal for all but the most ravenous of diners.

            Pappardelle Bolognese. Long wide noodle with very good texture and chew, swimming in rich, tomato sauce made with ground beef. Not surprisingly, this is not the classic Bolognese but rather an Italo-American version of the dish, but it was very good. $19.

            Linguine with Clams. Excellent! Plenty of little-neck-sized clams in a well seasoned dish of good-quality dried pasta. Along with the peppers, this was my favorite selection of the night. $19.

            We probably could have stopped there, and we should have, given that the second course of Veal Piccata, which we elected to share four ways, was not up to the level of the previous dishes. Although the dish was cooked well, and sauced nicely, the veal was not top quality and was slightly grainy, rather than buttery. $24.

            Other second courses last night included lamb chops, branzino, and a beef steak dish whose description I cannot remember.

            For dessert: Strawberry pie layered with cream was not very sweet and quite dry to my taste, but one member of our group was enthusiastic. $9.

            With two after-dinner coffees, the total for four was a reasonable $113 before tip.

            I hope to return, and next time will confine my ordering to those peppers, and perhaps a couple of additional antipasti, and the pastas. Several tables ordered pizza from the wood-burning oven; these looked very good, and we saw several take-out pizzas leave the restaurant during our visit.

            451 S Cypress Rd
            Pompano Beach, FL 33060
            (954) 786-0673

            1. re: erica

              Want to amend the report, above, as per comments from my dining partner. He states that he felt that with no second course, most diners would want one full serving of pasta and a few appetizers, and that he left the restaurant hungry after four of us shared the meal described, above.

              1. re: erica

                Four of us had another excellent dinner here last Friday night.
                We phoned several days in advance for a reservation at the 6:30pm seating.

                Prices are kept most reasonable by the BYOB aspect of the restaurant. We decided to skip the second courses, as they were not up to par on our last visit.

                Instead, we began the dinner with two selections from the tavola calda, in cases at the front of the dining room:

                Roasted and marinated red peppers were excellent, as before ($12 for portion meant for sharing). These should be considered an essential component of any meal at La Buca.

                Excellent pizza dough knots accompany the appetizers and are certainly worth a mention.

                Second appetizer: Spiedini, which I know as mozzarella in carozza, was bathed in a pink tomato vodka sauce (the pink hue coming from the time in the blender, I believe??) A guilty pleasure, oozing with mozzarella imprisioned within two slices of crustless white bread that had been dipped in egg batter and lightly fried in the manner of "French" toast. For $12, this could be en entire meal, along with a salad of some sort, or a pasta dish. Memorable.

                A 12" plain pizza stacks up with the better ones I've sampled here in SE Florida. (Although not in the ranks of Oceano in Lantana) Take out is possible, and probably recommended. This one would be good even cold! ($12)

                We had pasta as our main courses: One fellow diner enthused about his rigatoni with cherry tomatoes and ricotta ($20), and the three of us who elected to share two portions of dried spaghetti studded with meaty littleneck clams and parsley (again, $20 per portion) were pleased as well. Note to the restaurant: It would be an amenable touch to offer bottles of good olive oil, and jars of pepperoncino, at the table, since the clams, and probably other pasta dishes, would benefit from these minor additions.

                Service is efficient, if perhaps a tad brusque. Offerings are recited orally and servers are more than willing to repeat the list of dishes on case you have been unable to decide on the first go-round. While this style may be intimidating to those who have not been to Italy, or experienced this style of restauruant in urban areas saturated with Italian restaurants, we felt right at home, and hope to return soon.

                Price before tip was a most reasonable $108.12 for four persons, with a bottle of imported water.

                  1. re: The Chowfather

                    What are your favorites there, Chowfather? Likes and dislikes?

                    After almost four months in this area, this is one of the few spots we have returned to more than once, and may try one more time before decamping for NYC next month. I'd consider La Buca to be on a par with a good Italian-American in the NYC area; the BYOB is a big plus that helps keep prices very reasonable. I'd shay away from second courses, though, and keep my eye on the prizes of antipasti and primi, plus pizza. Plenty to eat with those three!

                    1. re: erica

                      Erica you listed your recent advice here as follows:

                      "Stick to the appetizers and pastas, skip the mains, and you can have a very good-excellent meal here, as we did a few nights ago."

                      Can you recommend an ideal full meal for 2, based on your several visits here?

                      Sounds like we would need at least 2 visits to get the full experience, one with pizza and one without? Any preference for which of the 2 seatings? Are they closed certain days? No lunch, right?

                      "Their Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta ($13) have joined the Slivered Roasted Red Peppers ($12) as my favorite appetizers from the tavola calda in the glass case in front. Their version of Mozzarella in Carozza (they call it spiedini, $12) is decadent and delicious. Dinner for 4: Three apps and two pastas (Paparadelle Bolognese, $20) and a long pasta with cherry tomatoes topped by a full round of burrata ($28), and a bottle of imported water, $6. Total: $96.46 before tip."

                      1. re: CFByrne

                        With pleasure:

                        First meal (non pizza) for four people should include 3-4 appetizers. Of those, the red peppers and the brussel sprouts with pancetta are essential, and for those not concerned with calories, the mozzarella in carozza, which they call spiedini, should also be ordered.

                        They will bring you complimentary knots of pizza dough, which are very good. Ask for olive oil and red pepper flakes for the table.

                        After the appetizers, you have the choice of pizza (we went for the second time in one week; four of us had two appetizers, two 16" Margherita pizze, and one half order of spaghetti with clams. Cost before tip was $86 for four, with two bottles of imported water, priced at $6 each.

                        I have been only to the early sittings, which appear to be either at 6pm or 6:30pm at whim of server. Open only for dinners. Not sure of closing days, but will inquire.

                        If you eschew the pizza, you might share three pastas among four diners; most are tomato-based sauces, so see what appeals to you, as these very by night and you are often given a choice of one sauce on several pasta shapes. I do not think they make their own pasta, but quality is good. (This is not MIchael White quality (it is emphatically Italian-American, not trying to pretend they are in Italy.. but about the best I've had in Florida, and I like the homey ambience which really does remind me of southern Italy)

                        I tend to order the clam/spaghetti pasta--it is minimalist, with large little necks and just a dash of parsley. I wish there was more broth in the dish, that I could combine with extra oil. But with a good helping of dried red pepper flakes, and that extra oil you have asked for, very satisfying. (Want to be crazy? Bring a touch of your own olive oil!)

                        They often offer a tomato based sauce with burrata in a pasta...I think the burrata is made at Mozzarita in Pompano (owned by Pugliese)and it is very good, if decadent in the calorie arena. Last week they offered a cherry tomato sauce with burrata that was very fresh tasting and had a decadent helping of a whole burrata on top. I liked that!

                        Again, dinners for four are usually in the area of $100 give or take some depending on appetites. The BYOB is a big help as far as total cost.

                        Hope that helps..more than happy to offer more details that I've neglected to note here..

        1. Finally made it here Saturday morning. At 11:10, walked in but "the oven is not hot yet". I was starving so detoured to Taqueria Dona Raquel for 3 taco late breakfast. I ran some errands then came back around 12:30.

          I was offered much food but explained I was pretty full and only wanted a small margherita pizza.

          It was terrific, definitely among the best in South Florida.

          Like Oceana, this place is a bit quirky but again well worth playing by their rules IMO.

          Can't wait to return to sample much more. I did take pix of some of the prepared sides... maybe someone can identify them...

          1 Reply
          1. re: CFByrne

            Photo #6 at the top (in montage of three steel serving dishes) shows the marinated peppers studded with olives which are a must in every antipasti order.

            I will try to bring the photos next time and get a more informed answer......glad you enjoyed.

            Last week two members of our party were insisting that the pizza here is better than Keste, Motorino (both in Manhattan) etc etc. Not sure I go that far, but it was VERY, VERy good.

            Pizzeria Lantana.Oceano is on my list for this week....

          2. The original comment has been removed
            1. Wow! What a lovely surprise! Have Lived nearby for last several years, but never tried it! Cafe La Buca is delightful....a friend and I walked with with our BYOB wine, our waiter, set up the glasses, opened wine, brought us water at our request and told us about appetizers. He suggested Fresh Mozzarella stuffed with tomatoes and spinach $8.99; Brussels Sprouts sautéed with pancetta topped with Parmesan $6.99 and a Grilled zucchini wrapped around light-as-a-feather ricotta $10.00. All were perfectly prepared, well seasoned and perfect size for two. Great starters with the hot bread.

              Our server then told us about the five pastas offered: gnocchi gratin, pasta bolognese, pasta with cherry tomatoes and Burrata, pasta with clams, pappardelle with mushrooms. We ordered two 1/2 orders of the pasta with clams $12.00 and mushroom pappardelle $18.00. The clam was delicately seasoned with lots of ocean flavor and the porcini mushroom pasta was generous with sliced mushrooms, onions, garlic and drizzled with a little truffle oil. Both were perfectly cooked and satisfying. Entrees included a couple steaks ( filet and rib eye), and a branzino in salt crust and snapper in aqua pazza. We decided to pass on main courses because we had eaten enough...but we ordered dessert... A generous serving of homemade tiramisu $9.00 .creamy, eggy, three different types of chocolate..dark milk and cocoa powder...with strong espresso and cappuccino 3.00 and 4.00 respectively. Total bill was $82.66...very reasonable for a high quality meal. Unlike some reviewers, we felt completely in control of how much food came to our table. We look forward to coming back to try main courses, pizzas and additional courses!

              1 Reply
              1. re: lnross

                Glad you enjoyed! As it happens, last week I had dinner there twice in four days. Like you, I've always felt in control of ordering, contrary to some reviews I've read.

                Wait staff will ask if they should bring you an assortment of antipasti; if you decline, which you probably should, you just choose your own. I've been liking those brussel sprouts with pancetta lately, and always order the marinated peppers with black olives, which might be my favorite dish in the restaurant. It is easy to make a meal of 3-4 appetizers, with that pizza-dough bread.

                I do wish they would change their dishes more according to season, although there is always slight variation on what is offered. I, too, like the clams very much and usually order them when available. Tiramisu was very good, too, I agree; I'd never had it there before.

                I agree that price is reasonable for quality and quantity. (Last week's pizza was not as good as in the past, but almost certain that was a one-off, hopefully not to be repeated) Oddly, the price of certain dishes varies from time to time..this week peppers were $6 one night and $10 three nights later! Just add it to the quirks of this tasty and unassuming spot!