Sunday, October 01, 2006

Restaurant Review - Buca di Beppo, Florida Mall (near Nordstrom's), Orlando, FL

For lunch today, we travelled to the Florida Mall to eat at Buca di Beppo, an eclectic Italian restaurant chain near the Nordstrom's entrance. We met some friends of ours - Mr. and Mrs. S. and their children Bailey (7) and Jack (3). It really works out great going out with them because my Little Boy (LB) is the same age as Jack and my Big Boy (BB) is the same age as Bailey. For those of you who are curious about restaurant names (I am), "Buca" means hole, like hole in the wall and "Beppo" is a nickname for "Guiseppe" (Joe in English), so the direct translation for "Buca di Beppo" would be "Guiseppe's Hole" or in slang - Joe's Basement. And Joe's Basement is a good description of the, um, interesting decor at Buca di Beppo. There are red and white checkered tablecloths on all the tables and framed photos of famous and not-so-famous Italians filling every inch of wall space. That is, all of the wall space except those taken up by cupids, old-time advertisements, and placards featuring the monthly Miss Buca winners. If you say you have never been to Buca di Beppo before, the host will give you a short tour through the actual kitchen where you pass by the "kitchen table", a table that you can reserve so you can eat in the kitchen and watch the chefs and cooks. You'll also pass by the "Pope's table" that has a bust of the Pope in the middle of a large table that must fit about 12-15 people. Apparently, it's typically booked up for large parties. My friends had never been to Buca di Beppo before so we got the full tour. We were seated at a large, long table with huge paper menu placemats. The placemats have the "family-style" dinner menu on them with pretty much every item available in Buca Small (serves 2-3 people) and Buca Large (serves 4+). Buca di Beppo has also recently created an individual serving menu just for lunch which is handy if each person in your group wants something different. Sandwiches and smaller portion entree dishes are on the lunch menu. Kids get their own paper menu that features puzzles and coloring, and the best part is that each child got a full set of crayons - blue, green, yellow, and red. I can't tell you how many fights have started when one child gets a different color than another, so this was nice.

On the kids menu was Mac-n-Cheese, Spaghetti & Meatball, Fettuccine Alfredo, and Cheese or Pepperoni Pizza for $3.95 and then Chicken Parmigiana for $4.50 (all including a kids cup drink). LB wanted cheese pizza, BB got pepperoni pizza, Bailey asked for the fettuccine and Jack wanted Mac-n-Cheese. For the adults, we decided to order off of the family-style dinner menu. There is a huge selection of appetizers, salads, pasta, pizza, chicken, veal, side dishes, and desserts. The Small pastas and other entrees run from $8.95 - $16.95 with the seafoods and meats on the higher end. The Large sizes run from $13.95 - $25.95. We decided to get a large Garlic Bread with Mozzarella ($9.95) for the table (the server said the large would feed 8) to start with and then ordered a small Caesar Salad ($9.95) and small Ravioli with Meat Sauce ($14.95). Since there were only 3 adults (yes, I'm a football widow, Hubby stayed home to watch the games) and we were getting the garlic bread, we figured that would be enough food.

The garlic bread arrived a little bit later and we literally all said "Wow!" when the server placed it on the table. It was a huge piece of round foccacia bread, drizzled with olive oil, and then topped with mozzarella cheese and big chunks of garlic, cut into eight slices like a huge Sicilian (yet round) pizza. And it was yummy! Everyone ate it, including all of the kids. We then had to wait about another 40 minutes (at least it seemed like it) before the kids' food finally arrived with our Caesar salad. Luckily, the kids were pretty well entertained with their coloring, branching out to the large paper menus after they finished coloring their kids' menus. The kids' food was huge. The pizzas were not a slice (like I expected) but were a full flatbread topped with sauce and cheese and big pepperonis for BB. Similarly, the mac-n-cheese and Fettuccine Alfredo was a large bowl filled to the top. Quite a value for $3.95 including the drink! The Caesar salad was also large and was enough for the three of us. It had a nice tangy taste to it and again, had a generous helping of garlic. (At this point, I figured people could probably smell my garlic breath from 20 feet away.) Amazingly, all of the kids ate their food. LB preferred to pick off and eat all of the cheese and sauce from his pizza, leaving the bottom bread, but at least he ate. Bailey did really well with her fettuccine but still had a large portion left over when she was done. Mrs. S. commented that the kids' pasta sizes could have fed an adult. Jack liked his mac-n-cheese, even though it was corkscrew pasta and not the traditional elbow macaroni. BB said his pizza was okay but that the pepperoni was a little spicy. About 15 minutes after the kids were pretty much done eating, our Ravioli with Meat Sauce finally arrived. It was really good as well, big fluffy square pillows filled with ricotta cheese and topped with a very meaty sauce. From the taste of the sauce, I would guess that the meat was a mixture of beef and sausage because it was very hearty.

All in all, we had a very pleasant, although very leisurely, lunch that everyone enjoyed and was very filling. So, make sure you are not in a hurry when you eat at Buca di Beppo. And definitely get the garlic bread.


Pinkcocco said...

I love the addition of pictures.

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