Il Buco

Staci Strauss

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It sounds like a cliché, but in all of New York there really isn’t another restaurant like Il Buco.

This cozy, convivial place in the East Village has an atmosphere we haven’t experienced anywhere outside of Italy. Donna Lennard and Alberto Avalle originally opened Il Buco as an antique store on Bond Street. Lunch breaks in the store gradually turned into what is now Il Buco and today, it’s a renowned Mediterranean-style restaurant. The place feels like a country home with surroundings as rustic and tasteful as the food.

Recently, we were lucky enough to have a lunch there and the small plates gave us a wonderful opportunity to sample what’s coming out of the kitchen. (On the day of our visit we learned that the sister restaurant, Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria was reviewed in the New York Times by Pete Wells, three stars, no less. We made a note to visit that location next time.)

Ingredients get top billing here. A few examples include, polenta from Anson Mills, pork from Bev Eggleston’s Eco Friendly Foods, salumi from La Quercia, produce from upstate New York farmers, dairy from Ronnybrook and Battenkill Dairy Farm, and fresh pasta made daily on the premises. 

We can't resist quoting their website to give you a real idea of the attention to the best ingredients – what a pleasure to not wonder what you're eating!

All of our meat and poultry comes from local farms and is raised naturally without the use of hormones or antibiotics. Likewise, our produce is grown using sustainable farming practices, without the use of pesticides or herbicides. Our water runs through a Dual-Flow water carbon filtration system that removes any impurity. Our cuisine is inspired by mother Italy as well as the Iberian Peninsula.

What we can't find locally, Alberto sources in Italy through a network of family and friends developed over the course of a lifetime. Umbrian extra virgin olive oil, vinegars from Montegibbio di Modena, and exquisite salt from the coast of Sicily form the foundation of our namesake product line, il Buco Alimentare.


Chef Joel Hough works wonders with these top-notch ingredients with simple, flavorful combinations – his plates are not gussied up because they don’t have to be. Everything we ate was delicious.


The wine list is, literally, world class. You have to read it (and order from it!) to appreciate their wine ‘book’. A clean, fruity, bright, prosecco was our aperitivi and from there a cold, crisp Vernaccia with a robust Montepulciano following that. Every bite we enjoyed was made even better by the perfectly paired wines.

Il Buco is a marvelous place, a testament to quality ingredients prepared simply, served in comfortable surroundings. Nowadays, when people ask us where they should eat, we immediately leap to the answer: Il Buco!

We had every intention of meticulously capturing every dish for posterity (and the slideshow), but somewhere between the salumeri and the pan-fired Hawaiian king prawns, we put our iPhones down, and simply enjoyed.