As with all of my gastric bypass restaurant reviews, I like to remind people that not all of us who are gastrically altered have the same food issues. I happen to have a few pretty consistent ones. Shrimp almost always gets stuck. Chicken usually gets stuck. Clams are generally not chewable to a consistency that I feel comfortable swallowing them. And it only takes a little pasta to make me feel like I’ve eaten a whole water buffalo.
Buca di Beppo has been a family favorite restaurant for a number of years. Jim first ate at a Buca location out on the west coast during a business trip, and he raved about it then. When we discovered the Cherry Hill location, we were all excited to visit, based solely on Jim’s glowing reviews.
Back in the day (Jim hates this term, which is why I use it now as often as I can), Buca di Beppo was a family style restaurant. You go in, you go through the kitchen, just like you might if you were going home to eat with family, and they lead you to a dining room that is filled to nearly exploding with photographs, cheap plastic and silk flowers, and memoribilia from days gone by. When you place an order, you are placing an order for a dish that will feed at least 2 to 3 people (for a small); or you get a mountain of food that will feed 5 to 6 people. It’s served on mismatched plates with giant serving spoons and forks – just like you might get at Nonna’s house. The menu itself was always pretty well rounded – offering something for everyone. There were always seafood options, traditional favorites like stuffed shells and spaghetti and meatballs, and dishes with chicken or veal.
Lately, the Buca di Beppo I loved has changed a bit. First, I suppose to accomodate people not into the whole family style dining option, they now offer Buca Mio platters – meals that serve, oh my gosh, what a concept – one person. Then the menu changed. And unfortunately for me, a lot of the meals I could eat and enjoy are no longer part of the Buca di Beppo menu.
My favorite dinner entree was the shrimp and scallops with orzo pasta. This was my favorite for a few reasons. While shrimp are not my friends, scallops and I get along splendidly! I enjoyed the fresh, perfectly cooked scallops on this dish. And while orzo pasta is technically still pasta, it is small pasta, so I always felt like I could eat more normally. There was a little heat in the dish, but overall, it was a good meal. My favorite side dish was the Tuscan beans. Tender, flavorful beans that really hit the spot in terms of being a comfort food and being delicious. Neither of those dishes are on the menu anymore. They also had a salad which was topped with prosciutto ham and it was delicious. It’s gone now as well.
I’m sure they have made the changes to the menu in order to keep up with the demands from the customers, but if you don’t or can’t eat pasta, your options here are really limited to chicken. There are one or two other things on the menu – a pork dish; salmon; and I think a veal – but the ones I’ve tried so far hold very little appeal.
On this particular occasion, we ordered the Quattro al Forno – a sample of each of their baked pasta dishes. There were four sausage stuffed shells; two chicken canneloni; two manicotti; and I’m not sure how many ravioli. I ordered that because I figured if the pasta was too heavy, I could at least eat the inside of the stuffed pastas. They were all very good, but very heavy. The sausage stuffed shells were delicious, but after half of one shell, I ate only the inside, which was a mildly spicy sausage and cheese blend. The ravioli were also very good – with creamy ricotta cheese stuffed inside the little pillows. The chicken canneloni was just okay – I have chicken issues, so I only tried a small bite. The manicotti was good – nothing notable, but good.
You will have to caution yourself at Buca di Beppo when ordering, and keep in mind what your body will tolerate in terms of food. It’s a shame for me that I am not able to eat more foods, but a shame as well that Buca di Beppo seems so limited in terms of the proteins they offer.
We will still go to Buca di Beppo occasionally, but not with the frequency we used to. It’s not the same, and for someone who is gastrically altered, it’s really not the best option food wise.