Real Deal Italian

By Angela Caraway-Carlton

Tucked away in a shopping center in Pompano Beach is the unassuming Italian restaurant Cafe La Buca. The space doesn’t look like much from the outside, but you’ll soon discover you’re here for the delicious homemade cuisine, not the decor. This is a no-frills restaurant with only 12 tables, where the authentic food truly shines.

Unless you’re looking for a fancy, white-tablecloth experience, it won’t bother you that water is served in plastic cups and dessert is presented on paper plates – you’re here to eat. Although La Buca does have a liquor license, guests are welcome to bring their favorite bottle of wine and there’s NO corkage fee. As the night goes on, it’s not unheard of for guests to share wine with one another or even sample their neighbor’s food!

The restaurant is run by “Mama” Maria and her son Marco Spina, who hail from Napoli, and most of the recipes – even some of the ingredients – come straight from Italy. The night we dined, Spina had just returned from his homeland, where he was gathering new recipes from his family to keep the menu fresh.

But here’s the thing: There is no printed menu, a fact that instantly excited our group. Instead, Spina decides what to make each day after a morning trip to the local markets. “Whatever my mom and I eat, that’s what you eat,” he says. “If it’s not fresh, we don’t eat it.”

Spina and his crew first send out freshly baked bread and their choice of appetizers for the table, and then diners get to choose from homemade pastas as a second course, and then a meat or fish for the main course. Everything is served family-style and you basically eat until you can’t take anymore!

Since the family is from Naples, and a wood-burning oven is center stage, we had to try the pizza. The crust was soft and topped with basil and fresh balls of mozzarella (which they make in-house every day). The pizza was simple, light and flavorful – and worth every calorie! But the best appetizer we tried was the lightly fried eggplant stacked with mozzarella, tomato and a balsamic reduction that gave it just the right amount of sweetness.

Our group sampled several different pastas, from the pillowy ricotta gnocchi (which my Italian friend said was the best he’s ever had) to the homemade pappardelle with truffle and porcini mushrooms from Italy. My favorite dish of the night was the linguine and clams, which is made with olive oil, parsley, garlic and a glass of pinot grigio. Spina told us the clams were fresh that day.

Expect to pay about $50 per person from start to finish, which is well worth the price for the quality and the amount of food. Be sure to end with one of the decadent desserts like the limoncello cake or the small cannolis filled with rich ricotta. Plan to leave stuffed, yet still wanting more! 

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Cafe La Buca, 451 S. Cypress Road, Pompano Beach  954.786.0673