Sunday, June 1, 2008

He who eats well, lives well.

Yesterday, I went to a going away party for for some close friends that are relocating away from South Florida. The party was going to be a group of fifteen with a few babies (including my Jillian). Enter Buca di Beppo, a chain of large portions, large tables, and reasonable pricing.

The key word here is "big". They encourage large groups to order several family style platters of American-Italian food and share a taste of the smorgasbord. They recently began offering half portions and even solo dishes if it is a small group or an executive lunch. Buca offers a staggering number of appetizers, salads, pastas, entrees, and even rectangular pizza's.

We started with a Caesar Salad for the table and the lettuce was crisp, fresh, and the dressing tasted just right. No anchovies here but it was still a surprisingly good salad. Next were the appetizers, crispy calamari with a spicy marinara sauce and brushetta. The calamari was well done and the sauce delicious. The brushetta was generously covered with toppings and could have been a bit more well done for my taste.

The main dishes were served, Spaghetti with Meatballs, Penne Arrabiata with Sausage, Chicken Parmesan, and Porchetta Rustica (pork loin). The meatballs are the size of grapefruits, expect to slice them into at least four portions each. The spaghetti was al dente and well received. The chicken Parmesan was typical fare and quite good. The pork loin was topped with a Balsamic Vinegar, blueberries, capers, and hazelnuts. It blended together well but was my least favorite. The winner of the night was the Penne Arrabiata. It was spicy, tangy, and the fennel sausage was cooked to perfection. The penne was cooked al dente and went well with the spicy sauce. I was impressed that the sauce was quite spicy, as family style restaurants usually tone down the fire.

The prices are reasonable for the amount of food you get, and the service was excellent. Double thumbs up for Buca di Beppo's. They are usually packed with a line out the door, so arrive early or expect a decent wait. Locations are in East Ft. Lauderdale, Davie, and Miami Lakes.

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