Manga Manga at Buca Di Beppo

Buca Di Beppo has gone through a lot of changes to make it more diner-friendly than it was in the past. Replacing the previous menu board (a system that forced diners to huddle in one corner to view their choices) are individual menus. Now, diners also have the option of ordering from a single serving menu “Buca Mio” as well as the traditional family-style menu.

Buca’s family-style menu offers a wide variety of salads, pastas, pizzas, entrees and desserts. Each item comes in “Buca small” (feeds 2 to 3 people) or “Buca large” (feeds 4 to 6 people) and every meal begins with complementary Italian onion bread and olive oil. Fried calamari ($8.99/$14.99), pan fried mozzarella ($9.99) and bruschetta ($8.49/$11.49) are favorites on the appetizer menu. Also a popular choice is the Caesar salad ($9.99/$16.99) (a word of advice, if you’re eating this pre-meal, be careful, it’s huge).

Entrees include everything from baked specialties like cheese manicotti and lasagna (both $14.99/$27.99) to finocchiona pizza ($13.99/$19.99) and grilled salmon with pesto ($15.99/$29.99). The baked ravioli (stuffed with a tangy goat and ricotta blend and topped with feta and romano, $14.99/$27.99) is also a delicious choice. The flavors are a bit strong at first, but the dish is a nice variation from standard ravioli.

Buca Di Beppo does its best to set itself apart from other Italian joints. Despite being a chain, there’s a very personal feel. When escorted to your table, you are led through the busy kitchen (there’s even a lavish booth in the center of the room for special guests), although the atmosphere in the dining rooms is much more subdued.

Buca’s is the perfect spot to go on a first date. You can break the ice over a bottle of cheap Chianti in the dimly-lit dining rooms. The entertaining atmosphere, full of Italian kitsch, keeps things light and fun. This is a place that goes out of its way to be overly Italian: walls are packed with portraits of famous and infamous Italians, lights dangle from the ceiling and checkered tablecloths adorn every table. If you come out for an extra special group dinner you might just get the chance to dine with the Pope, the Papal Lazy Susan that is, the centerpiece of the private dining room.

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