I don't recall the first time I went to Il Buco or how I ended up going there, but I do know it became an important part of my NYC experience from my very first visit. The space is rustic, warm, and authentic; the people are friendly, welcoming, and relaxed; the food is fresh, delicious, and innovative; and the wine list is simply outstanding.
It is hard to believe, but the restaurant opened as an antique store 20 years ago this year. As the story goes, shoppers would often join the staff for pranzo, or lunch, that was prepared in the tiny back kitchen of the shop. 6 months later, the antique store was transformed into an delectable enoteca. Over the years, the chef and the staff have changed, but the watchful eyes of owner Donna Lennard has ensured a consistently warm, friendly, and delicious experience. Donna entrusted the kitchen to Chef Joel Hough who embodies the brand and the legacy of this treasured NoHo restaurant.
A couple of years ago when I heard that they were opening another location one block north, I was excited as this would certainly make it easier to get a reservation at the always full Il Buco. During an afternoon run many months later, i happened to run down Great Jones St and stumbled upon the new spot called Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria. I stopped and stepped in to check it out. While it was only operating in soft launch, the staff was kind enough to give me a tour of the new restaurant. A market in the front of the house with a large dining room in the back and another dining room upstairs. The enthusiasm and excitement of the staff was contagious and I just knew it would be special. I returned for dinner a couple of weeks later and I was in love once again. The spot felt different, but for all the right reasons. The menu is simple and straight-forward, however the food is bold and delicious. The chef, Justin Smillie, like his peer at Il Buco is a student of Chef John Waxman (Barbuto) and equally talented. The restaurant earned NY Times' highly coveted 3-star rating in 2012.
Molto bravo to Donna and her talented team for creating two amazing restaurants. Sadly, reservations at both restaurant are extremely tough to secure. Plan ahead!
This spring, on another afternoon run in late April, I happened to run down Bond St and after peering into Il Buco, I noticed a sign on the street for Il Buco Vita just a few doors down. I stopped in my tracks in wonder. Another restaurant? Some type of pop-up restaurant? I climbed the staircase and to my delight, I discovered a world of beautiful artisan products and antiques. Another masterful concept by Donna and her team. This 3rd edition to the Il Buco brand is a series of artisan products hand selected from a series of small artisans from Central and Southern Italy. These products are core to what makes the Il Buco restaurants special and inviting. And now, you can buy them for your home. Below are a couple of pictures I took during a recent visit.
I can't wait to see what is next!!