Toronto
75 Portland St. | 416-599-2822
barbuca.com

“Are you joining us just to drink tonight?” This is a trick question at Bar Buca, Rob Gentile’s restaurant that likes to pretend it’s a simple bar for sipping Barolo. Try to ignore, for a moment, the amphitheatre of Barbaresco and Amarone ringing this double-height space whose glossy minimalism begs to be photographed for an Italian design magazine. Instead, peer into the kitchen. See? Chef’s whites, serious faces, extensive mise en place. You’re here to drink, sure – but you’re also here to eat.

Staff at restaurant Bar Buca in Toronto
Pastries at restaurant Bar Buca in Toronto
Pastries at restaurant Bar Buca in Toronto
Chefs at restaurant Bar Buca in Toronto
A plate at restaurant Bar Buca in Toronto
A dish at restaurant Bar Buca in Toronto
Chef preparing a meal at restaurant Bar Buca in Toronto
A dish at restaurant Bar Buca in Toronto

High tables seat four, but you spot seven huddling around a two-tiered tower filled with things like fried rock shrimp and artichokes. The two cute girls you squeeze in next to are regulars. “Everything here is good,” they say as you scan a menu of 30-some unfamiliar Italian bites. Everything, really? “We’ve tried every dish at least once,” they swear. Some quick tableside math – this show-off needs another round of Negronis, clearly – indicates that the famous command, “Bring us one of everything,” will run you $237.

"Bring us one of everything, will run you $237."

So here it comes: Those bianchetti are tiny fried smelt dusted with fennel salt, and you could eat about a thousand of them, but pace yourself. The cuore is a skewer of Chianti-marinated beef heart cubes with vermouth-spiked cipollini onions and a robiola cheese sauce, tangy and chewy and bloody. The braised-goat-and-ricotta polpette are meatballs that beg to be paired – oh right, we’re supposed to be drinking – with a glass of Calabrian red that the barman pitches as “a bit barnyard-y.”

Aprons: Not Just for Kitchens Anymore

Bar Buca, The Chase and Byblos are serving up high style in Toronto.

The Staff at Bar Buca
The staff at Bar Buca
The staff at Bar Buca
The staff at Bar Buca

Tonight’s dessert is a cornetto bread pudding served in a metal skillet, smothered with buffalo crème anglaise and blood orange. Conclude with coffee: The caffè bonbon is espresso atop a layer of dulce de leche. Don’t worry if the caffeine keeps you up all night – Bar Buca opens again at 7 a.m. And the duck-egg-and-burrata breakfast is sublime.