The Gist: Calling itself the "coastal cousin" of Buca on King, or as Chef Rob Gentile says, “It’s the flip of Buca King West,” Buca Osteria & Bar has the same great rustic Italian fare as the original Buca, including fresh seafood with daily whole-fish options, alongside homemade pizzas and pastas. Chef Gentile employs the same philosophy as the King Street location, selecting product“as close to the source and as source-specific as possible.” Connecting to the fish, connecting to Ontario and Canada. He is also determined to change how we think about certain ingredients such as tuna blood, cod tongues, vesgia - marrow from swordfish (an old school Russian delicacy), etc.
Using as much of the whole fish as possible is imperative, so Gentile is getting fish with the guts in, purchasing directly from fisherman. Tuna hearts are his favourite. It’s a challenge to find the ingredients he wants like a good “lunch” fish and it’s hard to find whole tuna outside of Nova Scotia. He wants the whole thing so there’s “little waste, and with the bones, you can use them for stock.” Gentile wants try to change to way we think, open our minds to eat these things so that we can crack a fish spine and suck up the marrow, and eat tuna and swordfish skin (“Sous vide it, fry it, no waste or garbage,” Gentile says). Ocean-to-table fare just got a lot more intriguing.
Grub: Seafood is of course at the heart of the menu here, but there are other options too, such as the Quaglia - citrus-rubbed Grilled Quail ($32) or Costole di Bisonte ($45) - chianti-braised bison short ribs - and pizzas, available in both “Bianche” and “Al Pomodoro” selections. The Salumi die Mare features cured fish options that really should not be missed. Currently selections include: New Brunswick Hot-Smoked Eel, Canadian Octopus Salami, Cold Smoked Nova Scotia Albacore Tuna, Prosciutto-Style Ahi Tuna, Dry-Cured Nova Scotia Swordfish, Dry-Cured and Smoked Ontario Rainbow Trout, and Dry-Cured and Smoked Ontario Whitefish.
Everything is made in house or brought in from Italy or a fisherman.
Libations: Enticing cocktails include Ciociara ($14) with Bombay Sapphire Gin, house grenadine, house tonic, lemon, and herbsaint; and Montecassino ($14) featuring Four Roses Bourbon, melon, lemon, and black pepper. Giuseppe’ssuperior wine list makes it easy to select something to go with both seafood and meat dishes.
Deets: The restaurant’s large size and high ceilings give it an airy feel, while sleek furniture keep sightlines clean and uncluttered. Seating is generously spaced out, so instead of 120 seats, there are a mere 85, giving you the diner, space to breathe and really take it all in. A large table in the middle gives a group space to sprawl out, a semi-private room suits bday parties and business meetings, and the chef’s table - a marble bartop at the open kitchen’s edge - seats just six people nightly for tasting menus of 7-16 courses for dinner, with the option of wine pairings.
Fixtures & Fittings: Featuring warm sophisticated décor with brass and bronze accents, wide-plank white oak floors.and an open-concept kitchen, the subdued look allows the attention to remain on the food.
Off the Menu: As you'll see, this isn't your usual pizza/pasta place.
Capesante ($19) features a live scallop topped with lumpfish caviar (Quebec sturgeon caviar for tasting menu) and smoked ginger is one of the best and more unforgettable bites you’ll ever have.
For those looking for something fresh, but not a snore, try the Isalata Friulana ($18) (available at lunch only) with radicchio castelfranco and Prosciutto San Daniele, capriziola - blue goat’s milk cheese from Lombardia, and wild Quebec lingonberry, presented on a walnut pizza board.
An exhilarating take on a salad is the Puntarelle ($14), with Roman chicory piled high and topped with crisp bianchetti, pine nut, pesto Genovese, a quail yolk and gremolata.
Spaghetti Pomodoro ($19) is a simple dish done superbly, thanks to bronze die-cut pasta di gragnano is tossed with seaside tomatoes, garlic and olive oil.
Storione ($34) showcases succulent olive oil-poached then grilled B.C. sturgeon, served with salsa mantovana, cherry tomatoes, Marcona almonds, sea beans, and taggiasche olive. Everything is so fresh and vibrant, you’ll long for it days later.
You’ve got to save room for dessert. After all, the Zeppole ($12), a light roman doughnut filled with a Sicilian pistachio cream, amarena cherry, and cinnamon, is satisfying without being a titch heavy.
How Cool is This?! A fresh daily whole fish crudo (always branzinosustainably sourced from Cyprus) is filleted tableside, a tasting menu that highlights Gentile’s favourite fish parts, and Buca is going to continue evolving. Ideas that have been batted around for upcoming establishments – various bakery concepts, a bar, and pizzeria.
At the Stove: Executive Chef Rob Gentile, Chef de Cuisine Ryan Campbell and Sous Chef Emeric Beccaris.
Head Honchos: King Street Food Company, comprised of Rob Gentile, Peter Tsebelis and Kosta “Gus” Giazitzidis. They also own Buca King, Bar Buca, Jacobs & Co. and The Saint Tavern.
Visiting Hours: Mon to Wed11:30am – 10:00pm
Thurs & Fri11:30am - 11:00pm
Sat10:00am - 11:00pm
Sun10:00am - 10:00pm
Map It: 53 Scollard St. (with the entrance on Yorkville Avenue)
Phone It In: (416) 962-2822
Check out more photos on our Facebook page.