What better way to jump start the summer than a Friday night out with the girls? My mat leave friends and I headed downtown to Bar Buca for the first night of Summerlicious 2016. Toronto has two food festivals that are held twice each year: Winterlicious in February and Summerlicious in July. Participating restaurants create feature menus for set prices which allow patrons to try a variety of their top dishes. It also gives people a great excuse to restaurant-hop all over town. These special menus hope to draw in crowds because those two months are generally the lowest in restaurant attendance (winter blues and cottage-goers).
We left home a bit later than expected so we didn’t get to Bar Buca until 8:30 p.m. We waited quite a while for our table, but tried a Dolceamaro (Negroni-esque cocktail, a concoction of Martini Rosso, Montenegro, prosecco and orange) while we stood by the bar (ever find cocktail making oddly soothing or is that just me). Conversation was a little challenging as the restaurant’s music volume was quite loud. Halfway through the night, I realized why I never was into the club scene. (Having a chat felt more like I was constantly yelling at my friends.)
We looked over the menu and all decided to try the same foods. For the apps, we had the crudo (slices of Guelph arctic char topped with a liberal sprinkling of squid ink salt and fennel fronds) and then the testa (crispy pig’s head with chili sauce). Our awesome waiter, John, advised us to have the testa second as it has a much stronger taste than the crudo. I loved both starters, but the testa was amazing. Crispy and flavourful! We followed up the Dolceamaro with a second cocktail, another fruity endeavour. Both had pretty generous alcohol pours which just made us all the bit more giddy and chatty.
For our mains, we chose the Vitello Parmigiana, which was Milanese veal, provolone, king mushrooms, preserved tomatoes, and arugula. The size disparity was a bit surprising – two out of the four of us had huge pieces. However, those two pieces were also the driest and my friends couldn’t even finish them. When a gentleman came by to clear our plates, he asked how we enjoyed the meal and a friend said it was “okay.” It’s probably not the greatest comment to be given of food and so she was asked to elaborate. He was gracious and quickly offered the ladies two more crudo appetizers to make up for the veal. He asked myself and the other friend, but we had inhaled our food and were satisfied with our parmigiana so we passed on the complimentary crudo (I could go for one right now though).
Finally the desserts came and they were delicious. The biscotti di mosai was heavier than I expected with lots of pistachios and other ingredients abundantly dotting the Italian cookie. Definitely lives up to its name of being a mosaic! My favourite was the Amaretti Arancione, a light lemon cookie, but with a nice chewy texture on the inside. It wasn’t too sweet, but the citrus notes were refreshing. I saved the heaviest for last, the Torta Cioccolatino, which reminded me of a creamier two-bite brownie. Definitely sweet and rich (I was the only mommy who inhaled the whole darn thing), and I should’ve ordered a coffee to go with it, but I wasn’t in a coffee sipping mood.
All in all, Bar Buca was a wonderful Mommies Night Out venue. Despite the long wait, the food was amazing and the service even more so. (Yes, the company was terrific too, ladies.) The 38-seat restaurant is quite intimate and if you get a seat by the kitchen, you can watch them do their thing (reminded me of Perigee). Good location and trendy crowd. I took a look at their brunch menu and am definitely ready to try their pastries and special coffee drinks. Mommies Brunch Out, anyone?