Disclaimer: We dined as invited guests at Bucci Restaurant and Lucid Media to sample their new lunch menu. Opinions – as usual – are our own.
I looked up from my iPhone, thumbs poised over the screen to punch out some choice words to describe the leisurely lunch we had just had with Jessalyn from Feed Me Now Brisbane on Instagram.
“Why did we wait so long to visit Bucci?” the SO asked, as he reversed the car carefully into the surprisingly tame traffic on James Street on Easter Saturday.
Frankly I was stumped. Why haven’t we visited sooner? Bucci Restaurant isn’t terribly far away for us to travel and while the parking situation on James Street can be blood-boilingly frustrating, it isn’t as if we haven’t ventured into the area in the past to visit shops like Leona Edmiston‘s vintage store, or other eateries, such as Gerard’s Bistro and Gyradiko. The restaurant isn’t ridiculously pricey either and it had a good welcoming vibe in a prominent location.
Admittedly every time we have walked past Bucci Restaurant in the search for a meal, the place was often filled with an older clientele that always had a bottle at the dinner table. It hinted that one should linger longer to truly drink in the atmosphere and savour the meal – an impression that was often at odds with what we would have been looking for at the time.
However Bucci Restaurant recently celebrated its 3rd birthday and launched a new quick and casual lunch menu, which I was invited to sample. No more excuses!
Bucci Restaurant‘s new lunch menu continues with its Italian influences and is divided into four sections: pesce (fish), carne (meat), verdure (greens) and dolce (sweets or dessert). Each section had items ranging from AUD$5 each (Calamari Ripieni Fritti) to AUD$14 (Arancini al funghi) and AUD$22/29 (Rag Ragu)… to the most expensive thing on the lunch menu – Bistecca at AUD$49.50 (chargrilled 400g Diamantina Hereford cross Wagyu rib, on the bone with patate fritte and Bucci’s mustards).
This deviation from the more traditional antipasto, primo, secondi, contorno, insalata and dolce menu format is definitely a reflection of the more casual approach Bucci was aiming for, but also offers diners with dietary restrictions or preferences an easier time of surveying their options.
OLIVE ALL’ASCOLANA AUD$12.50 (6 pieces)
The Olive All’Ascolana are stuffed olives are from the Ascoli region of Italy. Traditionally olives of the Ascolana strain are used, which are large, green and mild in flavour. Bucci‘s version were giant green olives with a gentle flavour – its stuffing combined fennel, salami, pork, rosemary and chilli. The combination made for a robust meaty starter that was sufficiently satisfying to calm a rumbling tummy without whetting your appetite too much.
Each marble-sized gem was crumbed and fried, and served with fresh salsa verde. This dish is a convenient finger food to share, as long as you are careful not to pop them straight into your gob before checking how long ago they might have emerged from the fryer (aka CAUTION: HOT!).
Prosciutto and pickled mushrooms with cow’s milk labna balls
CAPESANTE SALMORIGLIO AUD$23
To our surprise, two other dishes arrived at our table with compliments of executive chef Shaun Malone.
The first was a simple plate with paper thin slices of prosciutto and pickled mushrooms with cow’s milk labna balls. Unfortunately I had to leave most of this one for the SO and Jessalyn to tackle, but I did sneak a few bites of the pickled mushrooms and I love them! Pickled foods can often be a hit or miss, love it or hate it type deal. Too much pickling and your tongue feels like it needs to be scrapped with a butter knife. Too little pickling is just depressing. The SO quipped that while the pickled mushrooms were good on their own, it was far more pleasurable when combined with the saltiness from the prosciutto and labna balls’ silken creaminess.
The second was a short wooden board, its edges and surface worn almost as smooth as a river bed stone. Upon it bore the CAPESANTE SALMORIGLIO. Normally these would come on a board of six, but they had thoughtfully sent across just three of these sweet grilled Hervey Bay scallops – one for each of our company.
The SO, being the paranoid gatekeeper of all things that go into my mouth during my pregnancy, ruled that I was not to have a scallop… Just. In. Case. Sigh. I swear I’m going to have all the seafood my greedy little heart desires the minute this baby comes out. Dressed with an oregano and lemon dressing, fermented chilli aioli and pancetta crumbs, he relished both his own and my share, and would only let me scrap the crisp pancetta crumbs for myself. Yet despite missing out on the scallop itself, I was floored by how much I loved the crumb. I imagined it liberally sprinkled through a simple spaghetti with olive oil, garlic and chilli.
MOSCARDINI ALLA GRIGLIA AUD$15
The Moscardini alla griglia is a long plate lined with slow braised and grilled baby octopus with a salad of chickpeas and creamy thick hummus, fresh succulent quartered heirloom tomatoes, young rocket leaves and a spicy smoked trout aioli. There was also an unexpected treat of sweetness from finely sliced pickled onions as well.
I have – hand on my heart – never tasted octopus done as tender as the ones served on that plate, so if you’ve been traumatised by rubber octopus in the past (as I definitely have been), I highly recommend trying Bucci‘s octopus salad. When I asked executive chef Shaun Malone if his octopus had been manually tenderised (revered sushi chef Jiro Ono would massage his octopus for 40-50 minutes to tenderise the muscular beast into submission), he shook his head and insisted his baby octopus only needed lots of slow cooking.
CRAB LINGUINE AUD$26/33
Jessalyn had her eye set on the crab linguine. When the large main sized plate arrived, the heavy aroma of butter and fresh crustacean had my mouth watering. Bucci Restaurant have used local spanner crab with a thinner linguine, tossing just enough chilli to provide interest, and adding parsley and lemon for freshness. If you’re absolutely ravenous and a big eater (or don’t care to share any entrees or desserts*), go for the main size at AUD$33. Otherwise, the AUD$26 size would be more manageable.
Panfried barramundi with panzanella salad. AUD$32
If there’s barramundi on the menu, the SO would be sure to put serious consideration into ordering it. The panfried barramundi with panzanella salad was on the Bucci ‘Today’s Specials’ chalkboard. The crackle from the crispy skin was glorious – seriously, I would opt for fish crackle over pork crackle any day of the week. The SO offered me a sliver of his barramundi (really smooth and plump flesh), as we lamented how often we’ve been disappointed by limp fish crackle. Not here!
I forgot to describe what a panzanella salad was to the SO, so he was surprised that the bright red squares underneath his barramundi were really tomato soaked cubes of bread. The rest of the salad included coiled cucumber ribbons, the same heirloom tomatoes as my Moscardini alla griglia and this cute little semi-deskinned cherry tomato, that looks like a bon bon.
CHOCOLATE NEMESIS DEL AUD$12.50
Jessalyn suggested we try the chocolate nemesis for dessert. With its claim to be ‘the best chocolate cake ever’, how could we resist? We accepted the challenge, but insisted we partake in it together. The square slice was paired with a quenelle of light vanilla mascarpone and crushed frozen raspberries.
Personally I’m not sure I would throw my hands up and proclaim the chocolate nemesis is the best chocolate cake ever, but if you like your cake texture light and somewhere between mousse and chiffon, not diabetic-inducingly sweet but not bitter either, then the chocolate nemesis is a contender for that title. If your definition of ‘best chocolate cake’ is rich sweet and dense to the point of fudge or lava, this isn’t it.
“So…” the SO pressed, glancing at me as he took a turn onto our street. “Why did we wait so long to visit Bucci?”
I sighed and stretched to pat the baby bump (the real one, not the food one). “We’ll definitely visit again once the baby’s here.” I promised.
* No dessert?! What is wrong with you?