On a sleepy Thursday, I met up with my friend Mimi for lunch at a new favorite, Justin Smillie’s il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, a homey restaurant on Great Jones Street just north of the Bleeker Street 6 train stop. I like the familial vibe of the dining room, the light pouring out of the open kitchen, the excellent, often rustic bread from in-house baker Kamel Saci, the quality of the olive oil and especially the house-made charcuterie and salumi program. It’s a blend of quality and thoughtfulness to the food that meshes well with the pastoral Italian palette of the dining room, the liveliness of the wine bar backed by exposed brick walls, and the delicatessen counter up front with its stores of flour-dusted loaves and hulking rounds of cheese and cannistered olive oils.
We ordered a plate of cured meats, alongside a cappuccino for me to wake my sleepy ass up. These came with a basket of bread, with a crisp umber crust and fluffy white insides, perfect for the small accompanying dish of butter.
There were a couple different kinds of cured meat: coppa, salami, a gelatinous almost-terrine whose name I don’t remember, mortadella, and prosciutto, with a few capers. I finally got to try the salt-baked branzino, which I’ve always liked as a preparation for the fish. We had this with mushroom gnocchi and a side of fingerling potatoes with trout roe and creme fraiche.
The server who brought it to the table then took this back to filet the fish, which was wondrously tender and flaky. The lemon juice, filtered through the caramel, provided a splash of acidity simultaneously tempered by burnt sugar.The gnocchi is an old favorite, earthy and herbaceous and hearty.The potatoes were interesting, with the trout roe serving as a funky form of salt and some roasted garlic thrown in. I could’ve gone for more char or a sturdier (dryer?) potato to contrast with the melting creme fraiche, but the flavors were good. Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria (menus)
53 Great Jones St, New York, NY