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Bad night at Il Buco


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Bad night at Il Buco

Lee by the Sea | Sep 14, 2007 10:48 PM

Giacomino Drago ought to stop by Il Buco one of these months and see what's being done in his name. It isn't pretty.

While we're not regulars at Il Buco, we've dined there a good half dozen times over the last several years. My wife says she would get nice warm feelings as she drove by the Robertson restaurant. But after last Sunday, not any more.

Il Buco was an unplanned choice on Sunday, a backup visit to an expected reliable restaurant by two hungry people. She ordered Tegamino Melanzane to start; I chose Calamari Fritti. Recalling how good-tasting and ample Il Buco's Chicken Parmigiana had been in the past, we atypically both ordered the same thing. Waiting, we nibbled the Italian bread. Something in the back of my mind warned that it was a tiny bit toasted, as if to cover a lack of freshness, but I didn't listen.

The appetizers arrived. With a bold swoop of his hand my waiter delivered my full glass of ice water to my lap. We transferred ourselves to an empty adjacent table with minimal waiterly assistance--not even paper napkins were offered--and turned our attention to the food.

My Calamari were floury white in color and coating texture. They had the mouth feel and temperature of having been poured frozen out of a box into a frypan and served before their time with but a dab of red sauce. Her Melanzane consisted of thin eggplant that somehow still managed to be fibrously chewy, sloppily rolled around a glob of gooey mozzarella. It lay in a pool of soupy, unseasoned, characterless red sauce which reminded us both of Chef Boyardee. In retrospect I should have sent the appetizers back, but I must have still been too iced up in the wrong place.

The identical Chicken Parmigianas were nothing like they once were. What used to cover the plate did not span half of it. Chicken filled the central sixteenth of an inch between soggy breaded breading. Something burned and brownish decorated the region normally occupied by a slice of parmesan. A little more of that sauce from the Melanzane added the only pleasant flavor. As if in revulsion, three wizened two-inch carrot pieces and two small sprigs of broccoli circled the edge of the plate.

The check for this meal, which would have embarrassed a half-decent coffee shop, was $72.15 with tax. And the coffee shop probably would not have served stale coffee.

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