I've been meaning to get to La Buca for a while, but the last round of glowing Chowhound reviews finally pushed me over the edge. Plus, I still wasn't sure exactly how I felt about Aroma, so I thought it would be helpful to have another neighborhood Italian place to compare it to. I knew there were only a few tables, so I reserved for Saturday night. I'm glad I told the waiter right away that I wanted to try the burrata antipasto plate, because it was their last order of burrata. The creamy cheese was a perfect foil for the speck, salumi and proscuitto on a bed of arugula and avocado. I love speck and there aren't enough places in L.A. that serve it. For mains, we shared a spinach and sausage pizza with a tangy mix of parmesan and mozzarella cheese. Every ingredient on the pizza meshed perfectly together -- the fennel sausage, the perfectly cooked spinach and the flavorful cheese. The crust had a nice yeasty flavor, and although it wasn't quite as chewy as a New York pizza, it was still quite respectable. Our other dish was homemade tagliatelle in a creamy shrimp and asparagus sauce. It was also delicious, and their homemade noodles had the perfect bite. For dessert, we had a coffee panna cotta with chocolate sauce, which was a nice light finish. We brought a bottle of Judd's Hill cabernet to drink, and managed to polish off the whole thing.
Verdict: Not only is La Buca delicious, it has a lot of heart. It's cramped and tiny, and they almost forgot the espresso. But it's like being in a little trattoria in Italy or France, far from Melrose Ave. With free corkage, our wonderful meal came out to $53 -- pretty amazing. And I'll definitely be stopping off on the way home from work to pick up a white pizza with speck, walnuts and truffle oil, or a Claudia Cardinale with ricotta and walnuts.
5210 1/2 Melrose Ave.