Italy. At the mere mention of the word you think of quaint Mediterranean villages, the history and splendor of Rome – the ambiance and romance of Venice, The Art, The Fountains, and of course -The Food. People love Italian food. Italian food is very popular with Americans because it’s a very basic food, its comfort food, it’s spaghetti and meatballs, its pasta, and chicken and beef, seniors enjoy Italian food, and kids enjoy it too. Italian food in America is as American as apple pie. And Italian restaurants continue to be one of the most popular places for dinning out. In fact the Italian restaurant and Italian food has been evolving ever since the first Italian immigrants brought their traditions and cuisine here in the late 1800’s. Over the years those communities that defined the lifestyle of the 19th Century have all but disappeared, and just as the quaint neighborhood has given way to the urban metropolis, the “Mom and Pop” family restaurant is being replaced by more formal dining establishments and fast food
According to Alan Hickock restaurant marketing consultant, “The competitive landscape in the restaurant industry is very intense and the people who feel the pressure the most are the independent operators, chain operators eat independents, that’s one of the laws of the jungle here – but we see a little bit of a back lash right now from consumers, in the way they react to a chain restaurant, they are looking for things that may be chains, but don’t look or feel “chained”.
And one such place that I found that is part of a group of restaurants popping up in neighborhoods around the country is called Buca di Beppo. Buca di Beppo is an Italian restaurant that borrows on some old world traditions and where the emphasis is on big portions, family fun, and employee involvement. Vittorio Renda, executive Chef, with Buca di Beppo says, “This is family style, like when you go eat at home from your family or friends everything they put in the middle of the table, it’s not individual plates, here they put meatballs in the middle of the table just like your mamma, cause it’s a big food, and then you share everything, its the interaction, I give to you one meatball, you pour me a glass of the Chianti wine, so we talk, we laugh we drink, the interaction is what makes a the fun. And it really does, at a recent visit my wife and I at a table with six strangers who definitely felt like famiglia by the end of the night. I can assure you, you will have a blast at Buca’s, come hungry and make sure that you have a designated driver, because that Chianti is free flowing. Their atmosphere is definitely a bit kitschy, but that all goes with the fun and delight of this very special and unique Italian restaurant. There is even a special table that requires advanced reservations, where you can dine right in the kitchen and see how all these great Italian food dishes and huge portions are prepared. All guests to be seated are walked through the kitchen, its all part of that home cooking experience. As I walked through I could almost feel my knuckles begin to tingle with the memory of being rapped with a wood spoon as I tried to sneak a taste of my mothers simmering sauces.
As Vittorio puts it “its not like I create this food in a board room, its not that I create this food in a you know out of a little book dictionary that I look for a recipe like that, this is all comes from my heart, this is all come from generation, from my father from a my grandmaÃ¢Â?Â¦”
For many people in this fast paced world, the smells of grandma’s kitchen and the family dinner table as a place of food, conversation and fun, are becoming distant memories. For me an Italian restaurant like this one that can re-capture some of the experiences and tastes of yesterday may prove to be one of the most popular eateries of tomorrow.