Buca di Beppo roughly translates in English to Joe’s Basement. Buca means hole, a slang word for basement or cellar and Beppo is an unusual way to spell the nickname for Giuseppe or Joseph. The chain of close to 100 establishments is owned by Buca Inc., which in turn is owned by Planet Hollywood.
I have always been a lover of Italian anything...food, music a la Sinatra, Como, Bennett, LuPone, cinema with Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, and of course, la familia...Mama Leone's Ristorante in Boston and New York were among my favorite eateries in the 60s and 70s when I lived on the east coast. Leone's had a real Italian atmosphere with its strings of mini lights strewn everywhere and the food was sheer heaven. So, when I heard I had a chance to revisit Buca di Beppo here on the west coast, I was thrilled, as its unique basement-like club ambiance with wall posters and vintage pictures of Italian-American pop culture closely spaced literally everywhere - like the photo of Sophia Loren's eyes popping out of their sockets as she views Jayne Mansfield's low-cut dress - all of this is enough to keep one entertained for hours. And the food, indeed, in this super duper one.of.a.kind restaurant chain is amazing, with its family-style portions to die for. Gracious manager and host Anthony Martinez of the Claremont restaurant where I visited was on hand to greet us and stopped by our table several times to see if we were satisfied and happy with our meals, which was, to be sure, an understatement. We were having a great time.
Sunday March 9 was National Meatball Day, so naturally I was primed and totally enthusiastic about ordering their famously giant juicy meatballs. My friend and I also ordered lasagna and veal parmigiana to share. The veal was tender and succulent and the lasagna loaded with tasty ricotta cheese. My mouth is still watering, thinking about it. Our server, adorable Cheran suggested fried calamari as appetizer and my friend chose the mussels bianca. I have never eaten mussels but was so curious watching Stan eat what seemed a massive bowl of mussels right out of their shells. He literally devoured the entire dish by himself, and I did not do too badly either with the delicious fried calamari. We also had a wonderful caesar salad, some great mozzarella cheesy bread, and last but never least for dessert, the Mt. Vesuvius chocolate cake, which is served with raspberry sauce and covered with whipped cream and ice cream. There is warm chocolate sauce like lava which spurts out from the center of the cake, and thus the name Mt. Vesuvius. If it sounds too good to be true, you said it, it is exactly that.
There is a wonderful list of wines, cocktails and cordials with which you may start your meal. Another specialty on the dessert list is a delectable Italian creme cake and also a luscious tiramisu. As to the famous entrees, besides veal pamigiana, you may also order chicken parmigiana, eggplant parmigiana, chicken saltimbocca, and salmon sorrento. On the pasta side there are great spaghetti plates with meat or marinara sauces and meatballs, fettuccine alfredo and ravioli with meat sauce. There is also quite an array of specialty pastas, pizzas and sumptuous anipasti, all at reasonable prices, but I must admit, Bucca di Beppo is by no means cheap. It's a high-class authentic Italian American restaurant where you want to go when you're in the mood to splurge. The decor, the food, the great friendly service all add up to a party atmosphere that will easily suit a birthday, anniversary or that extra special dining night out, whenever you feel like it. Look for a Buca di Beppo near you! Buon appetito!