Too often ordering Italian at a restaurant means sitting down to a bowl of limp pasta submerged in cream or generic tomato sauce. Thankfully, Bucci raises the bar. The increasingly ritzy James Street precinct plays host to a swathe of trendy bars and eateries. Bucci has become somewhat of a mainstay after opening two years ago, so much so they have even opened an express cafe-style version, Pronto Bucci, next door.
This place looks every inch the stylish, urban, culinary hotspot. The open plan layout lets in some breeze while affording diners an excellent vantage point for people watching. The open kitchen is visible from the street and red accents break up the now ubiquitous stainless steel and warm wood. There is also a very eye catching light installation suspended near the entrance.
The menu is one page long – an often reassuring sign for an Italian restaurant. The share plates are all moreish, but we particularly recommend the olive all’ascolana – crumbed giant green olives filled with fennel, salami, pork, rosemary and chilli. You should, however, consider getting more than one bowl of these as you only get six per order.
Head chef Shaun Malone (formerly head chef at sister restaurant Buccini in Port Douglas) has created a menu of simple, light and varied Italian dishes, with each arriving at the table looking and tasting just as the menu suggests. The Bucci lasagne (open lasagne of braised Wagyu beef shin, truffled mascarpone and baby spinach) is a good example. The pasta here is resolutely al dente and can be ordered in either entrée or main sized portions.
The wine list, awarded two goblets in the 2013 Wine List of the Year Awards and consisting of Italian, Australian and New Zealand wines, is certainly more extensive than the food menu and there are also plenty of cocktails for those so inclined.
For dessert, the Dolce selection for two is easily the best value at $14 per person. On our visit the offerings included the bombolini with spiced sugar, salted Frangelico caramel and toasted hazelnuts, chocolate nemesis del ‘The River Cake’ with vanilla mascarpone and crushed frozen raspberries and the panna cotta del giorno. Though, if that sounds like too much for you, then the chocolate nemesis del does not fall far short of its claim to being ‘the best chocolate cake ever’.