This place is very cool. It just is. There is a lot of activity and action going on because it is a functioning salumeria, bakery, enoteca and restaurant. So you can creep some goods while you are enjoying your meal, but in a more neighborhoody, authentic way than Eataly. Speaking of neighborhoody, the staff and regulars all seem to know each other, and there is a lot of socializing between acquaintances when you dine early. The guy next to us must have been the mayor of Noho, because everyone who walked in said hi. The crowd all night definitely skewed on the older side, (high 20′s and up) with the locals giving way to couples on date night and large groups as the night wore on.
The setting in the front is just about all high-tops, some bar seating and some communal tables. The back area has larger tables and some more communal tables. I was a bit of a cranky Pants when we went (Italian food is usually the cure), so thankfully we were seated at a two top right in front of the meat and cheese counter. I spent the majority of the night looking at the delicious items on offer, and trying to bat my eyelashes at the cheese monger for some samples. Shockingly, at the end of the meal we were treated when he leaned over and handed us a sample of some delicious hard cheese, right in time for dessert. The cheese god was one of many friendly staffers that we encountered that night, included the super-attentive hostess and our jolly waiter, who was great with the over-pours of wine.
The menu is more inventive than it appears at first glance. There are of course lots of sliced meat available, and some staple pastas, but there is real thought and attention that goes into every dish. The fried artichokes were the perfect mix of crunchy and tender, served simply with a lemon wedge. The sweet ricotta is placed on top of a light lemon sauce, then covered with mint, chopped toasted nuts and crunchy snow peas. The zing of the citrus and the texture of the crunchy bits make the dish more multi-dimensional then a hunk of salted cheese. The clams are just as they should be- in a broth of garlic, white wine, tomatoes and some jalapenos, just begging to be sopped up with a piece of bread.
After all of that, it was time for the main event. We tried the bucatini cacio e pepe and the chicken dish- both were more complex and interesting than we expected. Bucatini, which is hollow, gave a heartier base for this simple sauce than the typical pasta served with cacio e pepe. The cheese chunked on top was just the right touch of salt, and everything came together in perfect slurpy bites. The chicken was juicy, and heavily spiced, and served with green strawberries among the veggies, which we had never seen before. At this point our waiter was running around quite a bit, but had the foresight to keep filling up our wine glasses to keep us happy, and seated. As people started filling up the bar area and milling around the tables, we felt bad for taking up such prime real estate, but he told us not to worry and came back with another pour. Feeling fluffy and full, we ended our meal (after the gratis cheese) with some grapefruit mint sorbet, the perfect palate cleanser.
Il Buco Alimentari and Vineria might be a mouthful, but it is a delicious mouthful. We can’t wait to go back and try the market goods, like the cheese, the paninis, and the chicken, and to impress some friends with just how cool we are. P.S. I hope to never get a vineria disease, ha ha ha…