Mark McEwan protégé to open new Italian restaurant

Mark McEwan protégé to open new Italian restaurant

Rob Gentile will open Buca in late May (Photo by Mary Luz Mejia)

Mark McEwan protégé Rob Gentile has left the fold of his mentor’s Yorkville restaurant, One, to open a place of his own later this spring. The former executive sous chef proudly declares that Buca will be “unico” in a city that’s fixated on pizza and pasta. “Our focus will be on artisanal techniques from bread-making to the salumeria curing method. It’s more or less sticking to the simplicity of what Italian food should be,” he says.

Inspired by Italian enotecas, Gentile created a menu that reflects his Italian roots with such dishes as striped clams stewed with tomato and cured pork; pasta alla carbonara prepared tableside with farm-fresh eggs and house-cured guanciale; and house-made salumi. A glass-enclosed room will showcase the curing meats, many of which the chef prepares from family recipes.

And, yes, pizza will be on offer, though Buca’s Roman version will differ from the discs found at Pizzeria Libretto and Terroni. Using a blend of Canadian durum and wheat flour, Gentile’s crusts will be crisper and sturdier. “These are slightly thicker than Napoletana style pizzas, which can be chewy and soft,” he says.

In Italian, Buca means basement; and, fittingly, the minimalist restaurant is located in the former boiler room of a heritage building. With a look that’s brick and beam meets industrial Milanese style, the hybrid style is intended to augment the experience of what Gentile and owner Gus Giazitzidis call “source-specific” Italian food that showcases both Italy’s and Toronto’s best ingredients.

Gentile wants guests to walk away feeling like he did after eating at his nonna’s on Sunday, in other words, “Happy as hell. It’s why we Italians eat again two hours after dinner.” And what about when McEwan dines at Buca? “I want to show him that he’s taught me well, to impress him. I’m sure he’ll enjoy himself and I’ll shit my pants!”

Buca, 604 King St. W., (at Portland St.), 416-865-1600.