By William Kristoph
Full disclosure: I was invited to the grand opening of Buca di Beppo last Monday, however, I was not able to make it. Instead, I tried it out on the first Friday that it was open before the dinner rush made its way to the restaurant. I did not receive anything for free, nor did anyone at Buca di Beppo know I was reviewing the restaurant when I checked it out.
The Buca di Beppo Experience
Welcome to the world of “high-end” chain food. I promise you that Buca di Beppo is nothing like the other chain Italian restaurants in town, and I’m almost positive that my friend Mike (a true Italian food connoisseur) will like Buca when he tries it. Armed with a coupon from joining the Tallahassee Buca di Beppo eClub, my wife and I headed off to an early dinner at Buca di Beppo at the Governor’s Square Mall here in Tallahassee. Buca di Beppo moved in to the former Ruby Tuesday area at the mall and is the only sit down restaurant at Governor’s Square. That alone makes it a welcome addition to Governor’s Square. On the outside Buca di Beppo’s bright sign, fresh paint and employees greet you. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve seen so many smiling staff members welcoming two people to a restaurant. Corporate is doing a good job training this initial staff.
The hostess seated us in the back of the restaurant. If you remember the old Ruby Tuesday, you’ll be surprised the different inside of Buca di Beppo. The only resemblance to the former, is that the restaurant is very long, front to back, but that’s it. The seating, ceilings and decorations are fresh and new with a definite old school Italian theme. It’s a nice blend of family, food and humor.
Our waitress greeted us and asked if we had ever dined at Buca di Beppo before. We hadn’t, so she told us about Buca’s style of serving food. Each “small” dish serves 2-3 people and each large is for 4-5 people. It’s served family style in a large dish, with serving spoons and entrée plates for each person. I like the idea overall, but if a diner isn’t expecting it, they might be in for some sticker shock when they see the menu. Also, if two people don’t want the same dish it gets pricey, especially if they don’t want to take home food with a doggie bag. It’s a ton of food for the price, but it’s something to understand before dining at Buca di Beppo.
Drinks – Strawberry Iced Tea and Purple Pear Italian Soda
For drinks, I went with a Strawberry Ice Tea and my wife tried a Purple Pear Italian soda. The tea was sweet, but not syrupy. My wife enjoyed the soda, but would rather sip on it over a longer period of time than having it with a meal. I enjoyed the sip that she let me steal and thought the color was fun.
Appetizer – Mozzarella Caprese
We ordered the Mozzarella Caprese for an appetizer. My thought behind ordering that was that it’s basic, should be fresh and should be hard to mess up. We make this at home and it always tastes great for a simple appetizer. Buca di Beppo did a good job on a very simple appetizer. The small is plenty for two people to split, before moving on to dinner.
Main Dish – Baked Rigatoni
I spied a picture of the Baked Rigatoni on the menu and it looked awesome. My wife decided that she was going to get it, so I decided to order something else so that we could try a couple of dishes. The Rigatoni was wonderful. The pasta was Al Dente, with some very nice chew to it, but not too much. It’s a huge portion and definitely feeds two people. Between my few bites and my wife’s portion, we had half the dish left over to take home.
Side Dish – Fetuccini Alfredo
My wife tried a side order of the Fetuccini Alfredo. I had a bite too, even though I’m not a big fan of Alfredo sauces. By my standards, it was good. Again, I’m not a great judge though. I’ll leave that to my better half. My wife thought it was a decent effort and would probably order it again as a side, like a palate cleanser since it’s not bathed in sauce.
Main Dish – Lasagna
Let me say this first, I loathe chasing Lasagna around the plate. More often than not, when I order Lasagna I end up with a mess on my plate and I’m horribly annoyed. I decided to give Buca di Beppo’s version a try, especially since it is a favorite on the menu. I could not have been happier with my choice. When it arrived, I cut it in half immediately since it was plenty for two people. The taste was great, not sweet and not too bitter, the meat was well cooked and there were tons of thin layers of meat, noodles and cheese. The best part? It held up on the plate! I didn’t chase the Buca di Beppo around the plate.
Dessert – Chocolate Chip Cannolis
Our waitress asked if she could bag up our leftovers for home and if we’d like any dessert. We answered yes to both, and my wife chose the Chocolate Chip Cannolis for us to share. Shortly thereafter, our bagged up food and Cannolis arrived to our delight. They were not overly sweet and had a hint of cinnamon. There were a solid effort and I’d get them again in the future, but after I try a bunch of other dessert on the menu.
There was one small glitch when the waitress forgot my coupon on the final bill initially, but she was quick to fix the problem. I’m also not thrilled about the decision by Buca di Beppo to bag leftovers in the back. I’d rather do that myself or have the server do it at the table. However, neither of those small issues would keep me from going back.
Overall, the service was great, friendly and attentive, the restaurant spotless and the meal was great. Buca di Beppo is off to a great start in Tallahassee. I’m interested to see how well it keeps the smiling faces and great service after the corporate trainers leave town. If Buca di Beppo keeps up the great food and awesome, friendly service then they have a very bright future here.
Congratulations Buca di Beppo, I’ve added you to my “Favorites” on Urbanspoon.