I was pleased to receive an invite to dine at Buca de Beppo (Herein referred to as Buca) on Friday evening at the Village Hotel in Newcastle and share my thoughts on the experience.
The restaurant is a British variant of the popular American chain, and they plan to roll out into more Village hotels across the UK. I say variant, because although the menu is almost completely authentic to the original – the general experience has been tweaked to better suit British tastes.
There wasn’t anything on the menu that I disliked, so I left it to our host, Andrew, to order and we agreed on a rather generous banquet that covered the table when it arrived. It comfortably fed the six of us (and the doggy bags would feed six again) and surprisingly everything managed to come out at the same time.
It’s pretty hearty American-Italian fare, so you have dishes like huge big pizza’s, meatballs (including a half pound one!), and big plates of pasta. It’s also fair to say this is a much better effort than alternatives like Frankie and Benny’s offer.
Some notable highlights on the menu were chicken in a creamy vodka sauce, chocolate cream cannoli, and the Saltimbocca.
The Saltimbocca was my favourite, as the capers and prosciutto cut through the creamy sauce, and worked great alongside the chicken. The Bruschetta Florentine – topped with spinach, provolone, tomatoes and mozzarella - was good, as were the stuffed mushrooms with pesto sauce.
The only disappoint for me was the “Linguine Frutti Di Mare”, or “Fruits of the sea”, as despite having a pleasant seafood taste, and the mussels being fresh – there wasn’t any real depth to the dish.
Another welcome import from the US chain are doggy bags! The portions are pretty large, so they automatically repackage any suitable leftovers, ready for you to enjoy the next day.
Before I went, I did have a read of the online reviews, and although mixed – were on the whole generally positive – and for me that does the restaurant a bit of a disservice.
This is not fine dining, nor is it trying to be authentic Italian food – instead its good, honest American-Italian fare, served in a friendly, entertaining atmosphere.
It’s not somewhere for a first date, but its somewhere that’s well worth a visit if you are a hungry couple, or have a family to feed. In terms of cost, it gets more cost effective as the headcount rises, as the small dishes are ideal for sharing, and you would really want a selection.
When judged by it’s merits, it ticks the boxes, and on that basis I can thoroughly recommend it.