The trio should be branded as ‘three-of-a-kind’; similar, yet distinct. Buca Osteria and Enoteca on King, the premier location, focuses on a more meat-based menu in a basement setting with high ceilings, exposed brick walls and its infamous cured meats cellar visible to patrons. The second to open, Bar Buca, at King and Portland channels its energy towards being a quick grab n’ go place without sacrificing quality and taste. Last, but most certainly not least, is Buca Osteria and Bar in Yorkville, a venue that enthrals every sense.
While sipping a crisp CA’ Bembo Friuli Pinot Grigio, I watched the sun slowly setting in the distance through the floor to ceiling windows. The dinner rush is unfolding around me. This is an upscale casual dining environment bustling with families, business get-togethers and even a girls’ night out. Acclaimed as ‘Toronto’s #1 Best New Restaurant of 2015’ by Toronto Life, the bar was set high, but they delivered, proving they truly deserve that hefty title.
So what is the sacred recipe of success at the marvelled Buca Osteria and Bar in Yorkville? It lies in the hands and hearts of three remarkable gentlemen. fredi magazine had the privilege to sit down with Executive Chef Rob Gentile and Co-Owner Peter Tsebelis. Along with Co-Owner Gus Giazitizidis, all are seasoned vets in the restaurant industry with extensive résumés. The intelligent and passionate gentlemen could not have created a better trio, referring to both the Buca chain and themselves.
Born and raised as a full-blooded Italian in Canada, Rob Gentile is referred to as ‘Captain’ in the kitchen. Under the tutelage of Mark McEwan for just shy of ten years, Gentile was destined for greatness. “When I finally had the confidence, I wanted to go after it. I didn’t want to say ‘Yes, Chef’ anymore,” explains Gentile. Although he credits his former mentor as his biggest inspiration, instilling both discipline and a mentality pertinent in any successful chef, it was always his dream to have his own kitchen. Gentile’s passion for food is clearly visible as he intricately describes his excitement for a perfect tomato – a very special ingredient that he says does not come around as often as you may think.
“I know Italian food. Growing up, day in and day out, no matter whose zia (aunt) or nonna’s (grandmother’s) house I was at, we were always eating,” explains Chef Gentile. While developing the Buca brand, his thought was ‘Why pigeonhole yourself to the flavours and specialties within one region of Italy?’ Broadening their horizons and for ‘research purposes’, Tsebelis mentions, “We’ve eaten our way through Italy, quite literally!” Whether it derives from northern Italian culture, is a central classic dish or a coastal favourite from the bottom of the European boot, all Buca locations serve the best of the best.
Tsebelis describes why he, along with Giazitizidis, were confident that Gentile was the man to run the first Buca kitchen. It may partially be that Tsebelis and Gentile share the same favourite dish, ‘pasta pomodoro’. More importantly, it could be that the three were always on the same page with the importance of serving a seasonal menu. “Why would you want to serve something that is not your best possible dish? It is almost a disservice or a disrespect to the ingredients and to the person you’re serving,” explains Tsebelis. “Rob will reuse the same seasonal ingredient in five different dishes, and you know what? I’ll enjoy all five because each provides a different taste and feeling.”
Although it may serve dishes from the North, South, East or West, the Yorkville location is not a traditional Italian restaurant. Rather, it is influenced by Italian flavours and foods. Even the classic indulgence of Tiramisu has a twist at Buca. The menu is refined, offering only impeccable creations that will cause your mouth to water simply from reading. The menu is printed on a simple sheet of paper, folded and date stamped, emphasizing the authenticity of how ‘seasonal’ and fresh their dishes are. Based on that particular day’s deliveries or inventory of fresh in- gredients, items on the menu are subject to change at any time. This means you shouldn’t expect to return and have the same meal. Instead, be open to change and flexible with new options. Exploration and trying new things is common-place at Buca!
Popular dishes at the Yorkville location include their Roman style pizza, Branzino crudo (raw sea bass carved tableside), Polipo e Vongole (Octopus and B.C. clams) and the Bigoli (a duck egg pasta with duck offal ragu that I wish never ended).
Favourite cooking utensil?
Nickname in the kitchen?
R.G., Captain, Chef, Chief
Are you a Gordon Ramsey or Mario Batali in the kitchen?
Crocs or runners?
What do you do to relax?
Football AKA Soccer
Red or white wine?
Red in the winter, White in the summer
Favourite meal of the day?
1990 VW Corrado
When not in the kitchen, what’s your go to outfit?
Shirt & Blazer
If you could live anywhere in the world besides T.O. where would it be?
What’s your go-to dish with your wife?
What five items can you not live without?
My wife, Blundstones, Custom-made French knife, Phone and (of course) Pasta
￼Every item including those on their dessert menu is made in-house and truly delectable. Their knowledgeable and attentive staff and their complex espresso machine provide the icing on the cake. Not to be overlooked, the magnificent décor features open space that deeply resonates with Italian culture through material displays of wood, marble and leather, even down to the ‘bagno’ featuring a toilet that looks like it was shipped directly from Italy. This restaurant looks like it was meticulously designed and de- tailed, emulating an interconnectedness between the atmosphere and the cuisine. With the collaboration of designer Guido Constantino, the space is ergonomically designed, functional and exudes a flow that only elevates your dining experience. I have said it earlier and I will say it again, Buca Yorkville has truly completed the trifecta.
To make reservations at Buca Osteria and Bar in Yorkville, please call 416.962.2822