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Restaurants

Buca

Posted by Carli Vierke / Reviewed on December 12, 2011 / review policy

Buca TorontoBuca has been something of a buzzword lately thanks to Jamie Oliver's late November tweet about his experience at the restaurant, lauding Executive Chef Rob Gentile as a "humble genius" who made his "favorite meal of the year." Since that tweet, I've been looking forward to visiting the inconspicuous King West spot to sample their now famous fare. If it's good enough for Jamie Oliver, it's good enough for me.

My experience as I arrive for lunch midweek begins a bit awkwardly. After giving the Maitre D' my coat, I'm sat at a table in the middle of the hustle bustle, with no menu. Though there are plenty of servers around, no one greets me nor offers me water or a menu for several minutes. When my waiter eventually does make his way over, he tersely notes "I'll be with you in just a minute," and then attends to wine and water service at the surrounding tables. Last time I checked, greeting new tables and providing them with menus before worrying about wine service was pretty much serving 101.

A few minutes later I am finally given a menu and decide to take a look at the wine list while I wait for my sister to join me. The list, crafted by sommelier Giuseppe Marchesini, is impressive: it boasts nearly 50 wines by the glass and many, many more by the bottle. The wines are virtually all Italian.

Buca TorontoI begin with a glass of the Ca'bembo Friuli Pinot Grigio ($11) and without exaggeration it is literally the smallest glass of wine I have ever been served in my life. I take little tiny sips to make it last, trying to notice how wonderfully chilled, dry and refreshing the wine is, rather than the robbery taking place.

Looking around as I wait, I notice most of the clientele are men - no doubt the King West "suit" crowd taking a break from their work day. Read: an opportunity to drink a couple bottles of wine and get sufficiently obnoxious over lunch (at a later point in the meal, the ogling gent next to us will send a bottle of sparkling water crashing to my feet in a moment of profound clumsiness.)

Buca TorontoAll the cooks, bartenders, servers and most support staff are men as well, which makes for a conspicuously male-dominated atmosphere that makes me feel like I accidentally stumbled into a boys-only club.

When my sister arrives, she asks our server for a beer recommendation and subsequently settles on a bottle of Italian Theresianer ($8). This leads to some confusion when he brings over more Pinot Grigio instead. The mistake is quickly corrected, but his skittishness - sometimes endearing, sometimes not - continues throughout the course of the meal and leaves us a little on edge.

Buca TorontoWe begin our lunch with the Formaggi - a selection of three local and imported cheeses ($18) and house breads ($4.50). When the Formaggi arrives, we find Pecorino, aged sheep's milk cheese, and Lombardian Gorgonzola paired with orange and cranberry preserves, fig jam, and roasted red pepper jelly, respectively.

We clear our wooden board of cheese in record time, taking only a moment to savor the deliciously smooth richness of the extra-sharp Gorgonzola. The paired preserves are delicate and thoughtful, complimenting their cheesy counterparts exquisitely.

Buca TorontoNext we order the Salsiccia, a combination of house-made pork sausage, fennel, peppers, roasted garlic on a bed of polenta ($21). I ask our server whether the polenta is served creamy or firm and he assures me it is on the firmer side. When it arrives I'm a little disappointed to find creamed polenta as the base of the dish.

We dig in anyway, noting its very homemade flavour. Though I don't think much of the Salsiccia initially - nothing about it stands out to me - the flavour of the fennel (which is tender and not too licorice-tasting) and the tangy, hearty, tomato sauce grow on me with every bite.

Buca TorontoFor our main course we share the Pizze Funghi ($18), which comes with a large pair of scissors to cut it with. The rectangular thin-crust pizza is smothered in beautifully fresh chanterelles, mascarpone, Gorgonzola and marjoram. The floppy crust, which we fold in half, is the ideal way to sandwich the oozing cheeses and dainty chanterelles into perfect mouth-sized vessels. We regret being unable to finish the entire pie.

Buca TorontoWhile I don't think I'd choose Buca for my last supper, the food is certainly tasty. The effort taken to share an authentic piece of Italy with Toronto should not go unmentioned. However, the combination of awkward service and the somewhat liquored-up man-crowd lies somewhere outside my lunchtime comfort zone. Call me old-fashioned, but for the pocketbook-drain that Buca promises, I expect at the very least, a hello and a tall glass of Pinot Grigio.

Discussion

60 Comments

ian milne / January 18, 2010 at 11:37 am
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Actually, they now have better signage.
Peter / May 19, 2011 at 09:55 pm
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Horrible restaurant with rude staff and overpriced food
liberty / December 1, 2011 at 09:37 am
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Very nice decor int he resturant. love the layout. The servers were nice and helpful. Food was expensive! was tasty but i left hungry and broke!
mezimeen / December 9, 2011 at 04:23 pm
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So my wife and I were looking for a place to eat when we walked by Buca. We live up the road and new a little about it (expensive but great food) so we decided to see if we could get a table. We were not dressed like we were going to a show, but well enough for a typical 30 year professional. (whatever) Anyway, the door man/host was a complete asshole. He basically diverted his eyes to the more wealthy and aged looking group BEHIND us as we waited for a table. He then proceeded to seat them (and they said they didn't have a reservation, but needed a table for 6) and just left us to stand. alone. in the middle of the entrance. looking like idiots. I waited a few more minutes to find out our status and he literally would not look at me or get us a table. I eventually got his attention and he said 'we are fully seated' to which I replied 'after you let that group of 6 sit in your ass?' He was a prick and for that I'll never go there again. LEE and Blowfish are down the street - I recommend either.
Jer / December 12, 2011 at 11:07 am
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Funny how I can count at least 6 women in the photo you posted...

Regardless, this place does sound too pretentious to me based on your comments and the others here. Did the menu tell you the size of the wine serving?

I have heard good things from many places about the food but I feel like I would likely be disappointed if I did go!
Maureen / December 12, 2011 at 11:27 am
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Hmm. Sounds like the host at the door deserves a pie to the face for his snobby attitude. (and a blueberry one that will stain his shirt good, too.) A place that makes you cut your own pizza with what looks like paper scissors lacks class - all bull and no beef. We shall stay away from this joint.
Terry / December 12, 2011 at 11:34 am
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Yet another Italian joint that leaves you hungry & dissatisfied at the end of your meal. Nonnas are shaking their heads.
Thom / December 12, 2011 at 11:46 am
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No PBR? Nope, I won't be going there.
gallagher / December 12, 2011 at 12:00 pm
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The staff and management are rude and stuck up. Save your money for somewhere else please. Just saying.
Lukewarm / December 12, 2011 at 12:03 pm
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Why beat around the bush? Just say you didn't like it, there were too many dudes and you shelled out dough to a bunch of pricks who treated you like ass.
Matt / December 12, 2011 at 12:17 pm
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When you factor in not leaving a tip, it's only a marginal rip off. Fuck this place and fuck condescending servers the world over. Starve them.
tk / December 12, 2011 at 12:19 pm
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Why do people Leave hungry an broke? That's not the Italian way when have you ever seen a starving Italian? If this is an Italian restaurant why aren't people leaving full and happy.
mel / December 12, 2011 at 12:30 pm
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yea. pretentious restaurant for people who are desperate to feel like they are living the successful urban dream. If you have let yourself become convinced that you have "disposable income" than by all means, get that BMW, Get that glass walled condo and go to this restaurant often enough that the snooty wait staff know you by name, then retire to your highrise, enjoy your 20's until your mid 50's, then realize you are living like a child so quickly get married and have a kid. Now you are 60, broke, living in a cold fishbowl and don't have enough energy to play with your kid, so head down to the grease spot this restaurant use to be and you weep. weep yourself into a soggy pathetic mess as you curse the day you decided your aspirations were worthwhile and this place fit your lifestyle. a lifestyle as unsustainable as your perpetual childhood.
kdizzle / December 12, 2011 at 12:30 pm
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This place is hands down one of the best restaurants in the city. Rude waitstaff are par for the course in Toronto, so never mind that. The food is fresh, authentic, and absolutely delicious. Every time I have ever eaten there, the executive chef Rob Gentile has come to my table to greet me and ask about my meal (and every time I have eaten there, it has been a busy Friday or Saturday) - talk about service. Try this place again - I guarantee you will love it.
nrd / December 12, 2011 at 12:34 pm
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I visited this restaurant earlier this year and I was treated very well by the staff. However I do agree with the comments about the prices here - I had a mozzarella and beet salad and a glass of white wine and it came to something like $30 when I was finished paying for everything. The food was lovely, but for that price, I will not be returning, I'm afraid.

Also, I have to ask, why are BlogTO reviewers so concerned with the clientele? It's fine to mention the type of crowd that hangs out there and then move on, but why are we counting the number of girls sitting in the room? You looking for a date or something?
morga replying to a comment from mel / December 12, 2011 at 12:40 pm
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It's funny when people are snobby and pretentious towards things they are claiming are snobby and pretentious.
jacquesvermont / December 12, 2011 at 12:42 pm
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Couldn't agree more with the review.

Food was good (not great), service was horrendous, liquor and food were severely overpriced.

With many fantastic Italian restaurants in this city (where bad service is NOT the norm) like Enoteca, Campagnolo or even the Terroni or Mercatto chains, there is no need to spend your money at Buca.
j / December 12, 2011 at 12:56 pm
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hahah @ Mel!
good work.
adam / December 12, 2011 at 01:04 pm
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sorry, who goes to king west and expects anything BUT a pretentious overpriced restaurant filled with douchebags? i thought that was kind of the point of king west.
mel / December 12, 2011 at 01:10 pm
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^ Thanks j

and Morga, that's circular reasoning i'm afraid.
mel / December 12, 2011 at 01:11 pm
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sorry, should have read like this:
^ Thanks j. than to Morga, that's circular reasoning i'm afraid.
Cole replying to a comment from mel / December 12, 2011 at 01:11 pm
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Cool story, bro.
Mandy / December 12, 2011 at 01:27 pm
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I am shocked by the negative comments here! I had an outstanding meal at Buca with amazing service. I found the staff to be very attentive and knowledgeable about the menu and wine list. I will definitely be going back a few more times in order to try all the items on the menu, as we were unable to try all the dishes we wanted to...there were only 2 of us, and so many things that sounded amazing!
However, I was there for dinner, so maybe there the lunch staff doesn't measure up??
Care / December 12, 2011 at 01:35 pm
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Had dinner there last week with a friend, and experienced the same siting down for 20 minutes before anyone even approached us with a menu and short glasses of wine. For a $14 glass of Shiraz, I was expecting at least a 6 oz. glass but got maybe 4.5 oz instead. Mediocre service aside, I have to admit the food was fantastic. The next time I feel like blowing $200 on dinner though, I'll probably go elsewhere.
Adam H. replying to a comment from kdizzle / December 12, 2011 at 01:54 pm
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Rude waitstaff are par for the course? Really?

I don't accept that - if the staff is rude I talk to the manager, and I haven't had to do so in years. By accepting it you're perpetuating it.
me / December 12, 2011 at 02:51 pm
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"The paired preserves are delicate and thoughtful, complimenting their cheesy counterparts exquisitely."

the paired preserves have such class!
mayor dodge / December 12, 2011 at 03:12 pm
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There should be a rude and crude waitstaff posting on blogto. Everyone just sneak a cellphone shot and post it as a warning to patrons. See their mugs and run to another restaurant.
David / December 12, 2011 at 07:06 pm
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I guess they are slammed every night because the food and service is awful. To the 90 percent of people who commented on this blog - you all seem better suited for an east side marios. I recommend the chicken parm - really giant portion of imitation Italian for cheap people who don't know food - you all would love it! Leave the "pretentious" king west restaurants to the grown ups.

The food at buca is great. The service and staff are great. Period.
David replying to a comment from mel / December 12, 2011 at 07:18 pm
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To the most bitter person on BlogTO,

I have a Mercedes (sorry, no BMW so i guess i don't totally fit your description), live in a condo with glass wall windows and the "snooty" waitstaff at buca know me by name because I am a good and frequent customer. I am also married with a good job and by no means am "living like a child".

I go because I like the food - not to be seen or waste my "disposable income" and though this may seem like a radical concept to you - it is possible to save for the future while also going out to good restaurants with my wife along the way.

You either need a girlfriend, boyfriend, anger management or a slap in face. Hmmm. I can't decided.
John / December 12, 2011 at 09:08 pm
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John / December 12, 2011 at 09:49 pm
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mel replying to a comment from David / December 13, 2011 at 09:43 am
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Having a wife and earning money at your job doesn't mean you aren't living like a twat. A glass walled condo in king west + mercedes + feeling good about yourself for owning those things is a slippery slope that leads right to douche land. I am speaking as a reformed DINK, reformed king waster (king wester i mean). in a way... i was on the same track as you. but i managed to look at myself critically and saw where it leads, and changed the lifestyle that was sold to me so long ago. it's a trend and it sucks your youth, money, and better judgement from you.

do you own a dog? do you take it to victoria memorial park? do yourself a favour, in the spring thaw go that that park and breathe in the foul urine soiled air from the 500+ pet dogs that relieve themselves all over those graves thrice daily. it's a great metaphor for that lifestyle. just a few short years ago you would be hard pressed to find any dogs in that park. then sit on a bench and ask yourself if any of this is sustainable. Then ask yourself why you need to participate in it to feel like you are a successful Torontonian.

Then ask yourself why you thought spending $50 on bruschetta was ever a good idea ;)
Hepman replying to a comment from David / December 13, 2011 at 10:22 am
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Aw, David, how much free pasta did they give you to write that little poor rich kid rant? Twenty buckets?
Marvin replying to a comment from mel / December 13, 2011 at 10:29 am
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Buca, in Italian, means 'pothole'. Now that explains everything.
danielle replying to a comment from mezimeen / December 13, 2011 at 12:04 pm
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Wow, that's a disturbing story! My husband and I went to Buca a couple of years ago to celebrate our anniversary. We'd had a baby 6 months before and this was our first night out together since his birth, so it was a pretty momentous occasion. Thankfully our experience was the opposite of yours, as we were treated graciously and had a stupendous meal. The bill was definitely a shock to the system, but we drank some lovely wines by the glass and paid dearly for them. Buca definitely isn't in our budget for regular dining (not that we dine out regularly anymore), but the one and probably only time we will ever go there was very special indeed. I'm assuming the host you encountered wasn't on the scene when we went, and it's very troubling you were treated so poorly. The management should be paying closer attention to how their staff are behaving. You really should have contacted them and told your story, as they won't always be the darling of the restaurant scene and can't afford to burn bridges. Toronto finally has a competitive and vibrant dining culture, and new restaurants are popping up all the time, enticing curious diners over to the next big thing. Not to mention, the bubble's bound to burst sometime, at which point there will be a lot fewer dollars blowing around.
Long time beacher / December 13, 2011 at 03:56 pm
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This is bar none the best restaurant in Toronto. Period
2 cents / December 13, 2011 at 04:20 pm
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Mel, you need to chill. You're happy with your life. You saw the light. We get it. Glad to hear it. Now go enjoy it and let other people live theirs as they chose. Your pontificating about how people should live and spend their own money is simply none of your business.
Lo replying to a comment from mel / December 13, 2011 at 05:37 pm
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@Mel, I get that this is an open forum which, I suppose, is as fair a place for your rant as any other but lighten up, man!

I don't live in a glass condo and have no interest in owning a car, but I am unapologetic about spending any amount of money on an amazing meal. The service- meh, who cares- I went to Buca for the food and wine and loved it all...

Turn that frown upside down and stop being so angry- it's boring.

mel replying to a comment from Lo / December 14, 2011 at 09:22 am
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somehow it inspired you to talk about yourself– how you don't fit the typical king waster lifestyle though. maybe my rant wasn't for you. maybe if you did fit that profile you would have felt differently. maybe if you felt passionately about things you would understand what it's like. having a flat affect about a topic is boring too. nothing but positive comments is creepy (see smallville). so what do we do?
David replying to a comment from mel / December 14, 2011 at 05:41 pm
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you clearly have some serious issues. I am with "2 cents". If you are so happy with your life why are you so hateful and spending so much negative energy raging on a website trying to rip apart a good restaurant? For someone who claims to be so enlightened you may want to reconsider the way you put yourself out there, even on a website.

I love Buca, I think kingwest is a great place to live and how I choose to spend my money (like 2 cents said) is none of your business. This is a forum for people who want to comment on the quality of a restaurant and their experience there. Not for some psycho to rant and rave about how if you eat at buca that somehow leads to a life where you neglect your children... haha... its so riduclous it's funny.

bree replying to a comment from Hepman / December 14, 2011 at 10:49 pm
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Hey Hepman - why don't you read the previous post before you make a comment. Those "rich kid" comments was a direct defense to mel's insane rants. Futhermore - I eat at Buca and am proud to say it is an amazing spot with some of the best authentic italian in toronto. Nobody has to give me "free pasta" to say that. Just as I doubt every other business on BlogTO are giving commenters free stuff to give a good review. All you people are nuts. If you don't have an actual comment about the restaurant itself - stop writing.

To the Buca lovers or those interested in trying - the Duck Pici Pasta is amazing - as is the burrata pizza and the Tirimisu is my favorite in the city!

CuliNerd / December 15, 2011 at 09:14 am
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Buca is good, Jaime Oliver def help put it on the map even moreso, Did Jamie go there bc of what he heard or the Concierge at the Hotel told him to go? That is the question. Sorry you want Italian, yummy no BS, Paganelli's(Romagna-Mia).

House cured meats done right(years before it was a trend) Shit, he even served Burrata over 3yrs ago(again before it was a trend) Chef Paganelli still does it right. Buca does it proper
Alessandro replying to a comment from bree / December 17, 2011 at 08:31 pm
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Bree, the comments are NOT about the food, which I know is fantastic, but about the idiots running the dining room. Restaurants have lost ratings over the actions of some fool waitstaff or a douche bag of a host. They undermine the great work of the chef and he should kick them where the sun don't shine, capish?
Mel / March 17, 2012 at 10:29 am
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Pricey but service is great and the food is amazing. I wish I could eat nothing but their tiramisu for the rest of my life.
Ashley / March 22, 2012 at 05:17 pm
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Most amazing restaurant I've been to in Toronto thus far. In addition Buca was just voted TOP PIZZA ALL OF TORONTO!! The food and staff are incredible and their chefs are beyond talented. I definitely recommend Buca to anyone looking for a unique/diverse/fresh cuisine. Not only that but most of their meats are brought in from local farms (way to support our economy!) I've worked in the serving business all throughout my university schooling and I can honestly say that some dining experiences are out of a restaurants control you could get a bad server or a complete mix up and that ruins the entire meal. However, I do think those of you should have optimisim when choosing restaurants that food 'bloggers' put down (I mean they are known for extreme criticism).
Al / April 11, 2012 at 02:37 pm
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Ate here last wek for my birthday. Nice place although a bit hard to find with their minisule signage. The waiter was good (until they go busier). The food was good as well, although the portion size ratio to dollars was way off. Far too expensive for what you get. I am Italian and we tend to serve large portions of whatever we are eating. My plate of pasta was homemade and probably contained 10 cents worth of flour so it could have been a normal portion at least. I guess their labor and profit costs are very high....
Definately will never go back.
Al / April 11, 2012 at 02:40 pm
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To add one more thing, we were told they could "squeeze" us in but we had to be gone by 8pm... Nothing like being rushed
Jane / July 7, 2012 at 03:27 am
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The staff and management are rude and stuck up. Save your money for somewhere else please. Just saying.
Heather / September 24, 2012 at 01:24 am
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The service was so slow and poor. The staff was not polite at all. Never go there again.
Patrick / October 13, 2012 at 12:06 am
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I wanted to go here for my 32nd b-day dinner, so my loving wife, over her own unsaid objections, brought me here. This was a complete waste of money and time. Bland food and we were ignored by the staff most of the time. Frankly, the best thing we ordered was the overpriced bottle of wine because it was something unique. The rest of the meal was completely pretentious and contrived - nothing more than a commercial attempt to copy the unique "nose to tail" dishes that mark many great restaurants that opened in 2009. For the price we could have had excellent meals at Enoteca Sociale, 7 Numbers, Gia Rana's, Dukem, Splendito, George, and whole host of other excellent restaurants. Save your time and money and go elsewhere.
Chuck replying to a comment from David / October 17, 2012 at 03:32 pm
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Thank You!!
Sean / November 21, 2012 at 07:05 am
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Inspected on: November 15, 2012
Inspection finding: Yellow (Conditional Pass)
Number of infractions: 8 (Minor: 2, Significant: 5, Crucial: 1)
Crucial infractions include: Inadequate food temperature control
Moi replying to a comment from Sean / December 29, 2012 at 10:46 pm
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Crucial infractions include: Inadequate temperature control
Seems this place has to delete their snob door-staff. After reading reviews. I would never go there
James / March 1, 2013 at 10:16 pm
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The indoor stairs at Buca in toronto were wet and I slipped and fell down them. I fell down the stairs at Buca restaurant in Toronto. I am in a lot of pain. I mentioned this to a few people and they all said the same thing - they either had seen someone fall down the stairs while they were there, or they had a hard time with the stairs.

Am I the only one who has fallen down the stairs at Buca restaurant in Toronto? If you fell down the stairs at Buca restaurantin Toronto please email me.
PJ / June 22, 2013 at 10:48 pm
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Just came from an absolutely lovely meal at Buca. Expensive, yes, but everything was fresh, flavourful, and house-made. Staff were knowledgable and attentive. The Tiramisu was the best I've ever eaten!
SW / October 22, 2013 at 01:44 pm
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I had an incredible Buca experience; in fact, I've been raving about it since, and it was in March. Dying to go back.

Went with two girlfriends, had a very attentive server. We ordered a cheese platter and the server noticed my girlfriend was pregnant and advised her on which cheese was pasteurized/nonpasteurized. We were so impressed by his knowledge. The rest of the meal went on to be fantastic. We told our server we'd be sharing everything, so they brought us larger portions (for no extra cost!!) in bowls with sharing spoons.

The manager even came by during our meal to check on us, brought my preggers friend a mocktail on the house... It may have been pricy, but it was worth every penny and I can't wait to get back there.
Britt replying to a comment from mel / February 24, 2014 at 05:50 pm
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Hahahaha, amazing! My favourite comment thus far!
Brooks / March 8, 2014 at 08:02 pm
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Food was good to very good. Service was bad and careless so I did not tip. Saved myself some dough, I suppose.
Would go back but tip is for service that I like.
Also, no pretty women or waitresses here..sad
Taj / April 24, 2014 at 08:44 pm
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Thanks , I've just been searching for info approximately this subject
for a while and yours is the best I have discovered so far.
But, what in regards to the bottom line? Are you certain about the supply?

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