3600 Tudor Blvd.
Austin, TX 78759
Theme restaurants usually bore me to death. You know the Joe’s Crab Shacks of the world where the waiters dress up as characters from Deep Space Nine and try to manufacture fun. So to be perfectly frank, I wasn’t looking forward to my visit to Buca di Beppo, an Italian chain dishing up humongous amounts of southern Italian fare and orchestrated fun.
Located on Tudor Rd. near Dave & Busters’s, Buca di Beppo, which literally translates to “Joe’s basement” in Italian, employs apparent legions of gushing wait people who frolic about attempting to inspire equal levels of glee and frivolity among their customers. OK. Here’s where I usually exit stage right. Except for one thing. The food wasn’t really wasn’t bad at all. In fact, several of the dishes were quite good.
The concept here is family style. And you’d better have a large family because they do feed you. We began with an 1893 salad, which featured an array of greens adorned with various Italian cold cuts. Nice, and the salad alone could have fed my family… and yours.
The Bruschetta was crisp and flavorful and went well with the salad. Then the Pizza arrived. And it was, I have to admit, very tasty. Done in the Neapolitan thin-crust style, the taste evoked memories of my old pizza haunts in New Haven, Conn. A very pleasant surprise.
As was the spaghetti with meatballs in a marinara sauce. A rich, flavorful sauce with no negative aftertaste and savory, gigantic meatballs. It was very good.
The linguini with white clam sauce was not as good. The taste of olive oil was overpowering and negated the clam flavor. This one needs some work.
We tried the eggplant parmesan next and it was excellent. The eggplant was crispy and full of taste. Again, a mountain of food, most of which we had to take home as we were becoming glassy-eyed at that point.
I really enjoyed the homemade gelato for dessert but was less than enthused about the tiramisu. Too much rum aftertaste.
Nonetheless, there’s much to like about Buca di Beppo, even if the ever-present level of energy is a bit much for your sensibilities. Families will like this place because it is utterly without pretense. And adults? Well, from the tongue-in-cheek pictures on the walls of the men’s room to the Pope’s table where 12-20 of your closest friends can be found yelling, “Mangia, mangia,” the place is a blast. But ultimately, it’s the food that makes it work.
For Fox 7 News and 590 KLBJ-AM, I’m Rob Balon, dining out.