Restaurants & Reservations: Dining in Cincinnati

What happens when a rabbi and a lawyer walk into a bar? We'll let you know in a few years, but until then we'll do our best to share with you our favorite (and not-so-favorite) Cincinnati restaurants and hope you'll share some with us, too!

Buca di Beppo: Where "family style" dining means you brought your cousins along. And Aunts and Uncles. And relatives twice removed.

Buca di Beppo 2635 Edmondson Road • Norwood, OH 45209 • (513) 396-7673

His Take

If you’re looking for a great restaurant for a date, this isn’t the one. If you’re looking for a place with generous portions because you’re hungry, this isn’t the one. But if you’re hungry and happen to have anywhere from five to fifty hungry friends or family members with you, then Buca di Beppo might just fit the bill.

Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that this isn’t the place for a date (unless you really have a thing for week-long leftovers). My date and I stopped by for a short and unusually early dinner (before a mad rush to the airport), and while the venue was relatively empty, our attentive server had no trouble overflowing our plates with food.

We decided to start with a salad and selected the apple & gorgonzola salad. Most of the salad met our expectations: fresh romaine and generous amounts of cheese. The “spiced walnuts” were particularly flavorful, and while we couldn’t figure out what exactly the seasoning was, we agreed it was delicious. Oh, and did I mention we could have ended our meal there just based on the mountain of salad they gave us? Yes, it easily serves a normal salad portion (side, not entree) for 4–6 people. One more thing: that was the “small” size!

But of course, not knowing the truckload of greens we had coming, we naturally ordered some pasta, too (when in Rome...). We were looking for something light and vegetarian, so we settled on the penne campofiore—pasta with zucchini, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and cheese. Once again, a mountain was delivered—easily enough for 4 (and again, it was a “small”).

The pasta dish was less exciting than we had hoped. Everything was cooked correctly and well presented, but the dish was definitely lacking in the seasoning department. The “light vegetable broth” was essentially non-existent, which left the dish a standard pasta + veggies dish. Healthful, yes. Delicious, eh... I suppose that’s what we get for trying to eat healthily.

So in short, if you need to feed a bunch of people and at a very reasonable price, this is the place. Just don’t set your culinary expectations too high. This is food for the masses!
Her Take

Our visit to Buca di Beppo started with their “tour” of the restaurant when we arrived. Our hostess seemed to have done a few too many, though, as she half-heartedly pointed out the kitchen, the special kitchen table, where a family can sit with a kitchen view and watch all the action, and a couple of their themed rooms (“the pope room,” “the Godfather room”) that have photos and decorations according to the theme, all on the way to our table. The tour was a nice idea, but not executed enthusiastically, and therefore it lost most of its charm. We also discovered the downside of seating people via a walk through the kitchen: when we left, we had trouble finding our way out without retracing our steps through the kitchen!

I’ll go ahead and second the atmosphere and food comments made to my left. The menus double as paper placemats on top of the tablecloth, if that is another indication of atmosphere. Because I was taking him to the airport, I was the one who ended up with two full boxes of leftovers. With the leftover pasta, I did something I seldom feel the need to do for restaurant leftovers: I made the dish more interesting. The balance of pasta and veggies was disappointing: mostly noodles, and only a little bit of vegetables. So when I reheated it, I added many more veggies from my fridge, and if I may say so, it improved greatly!

The service was fairly average, especially considering that we were a table of two, with correspondingly few dishes, and we were seated near a table of about a dozen (and three generations) and a group of about 6 adults out for a birthday dinner. Our waiter even told us as he dropped off the check that we were an easy table. I’m pretty sure that means that they are used to large parties, and a table for two is somewhat of a rarity…as it should be.

I would certainly recommend this restaurant for big family outings, especially with kids. Beyond that, I’d think twice about returning.

Buca di Beppo on Urbanspoon

No comments: