Dish

Bucas with the lid off

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A new job, a new workplace… and a delicious new place to eat lunch

I love being the new guy. I love starting a new job where the people are
simultaneously friendly and appraising, where my office is spotless and the
freshly formatted Windows desktop glows with possibility. Sure, the workload
is always a little intimidating, I don’t know how many scoops to put in
the coffee maker and I’m screwed if there’s a paper jam. But this
is all outweighed by the excitement of having a whole new place to call home
for eight hours a day.

But the best part about being new doesn’t usually come until
you’ve settled in, when the frighteningly competent and warmly friendly
co-worker assigned to show you the ropes invites you to the place
“everyone goes for lunch.” Bingo! These delicate fruits of the
office grapevine are a new job’s most succulent rewards, and it was
with pleasure that I joined my new office’ graphic design goddess and
an IT guru for lunch at Bucas & Pastas. Upon arrival, I
must admit I was skeptical: part of a bland concrete strip mall, its windows
facing a parking lot and a one-way downtown thoroughfare from the western
bedroom communities, the sight hardly inspired me to expect culinary
delights. I learned better.

Bucas (short for “Drink sambuca!” in Italian, which could be a
greeting of sorts or perhaps a clever marketing strategy) gave me hope that
we could reclaim our strip-mall culture from the inside out. The interior was
as bubbling with life as the exterior was drab; music played quietly on the
stereo, and the glassed-in refrigerated case was bursting with fresh pastas
and sauces for take-home enjoyment. (The desserts, however, occupied the top
shelf and my full attention.) Our graphic designer told me that under no
circumstances should I forego the tiramisu.

Memories of high-school cafeterias came crashing back as I edged my way down
the line; holding tight to my little plastic tray, I ordered the cheese
tortellini with mushroom sauce, opting for the small ($7.25) rather than the
all-you-can-eat large portion. I asked for a meatball ($0.95) which was
perched precariously atop my pasta, then rounded out my tray with coffee ($1)
and tiramisu ($3.75). With most of the traffic ordering takeout, we have no
trouble occupying one of the few tables. It’s great to see that Bucas
is licensed and offers good prices on wines, beers and the eponymous sambuca,
but this is an office lunch, so the booze will have to wait for a future
evening foray.

The pasta, meanwhile, is cooked to perfection: firm, moist and yielding, it
makes for ideal comfort food on a day of watching the leaves turn. The
meatball was lightly spiced and absolutely delicious; mashed into the pasta,
it transformed the meal. The mushroom sauce was a bit of a surprise, subtle
at first but with a spicy aftertaste. The burn complemented the gooey
goodness, but I should have gone with an Italian soda rather than coffee.
I’d probably think twice before ordering the Cajun pasta with hot
mushroom sauce, which the graphic designer heartily endorsed, but I did swipe
a taste of the IT’s pasticcio in alfredo sauce when his back was
turned. I would have tried to steal the whole thing, but then I remembered
the tiramisu.

Don’t get me wrong: I was full. The “small” portion they
served at Bucas forever banished any thought of going “all you can
eat.” But at the same time, the tiramisu seemed to await me patiently,
soft and inviting, dare I say… lovingly? I reached out my fork for a taste.
Needless to say, I didn’t share this sultry celebration of chocolate
and Kahlua with my coworkers. We left well fed and satisfied, ready for an
afternoon of toil or preferably a carbohydrate-induced siesta.

Bucas & Pastas doesn’t serve gourmet cuisine, but it does serve
great food, most of it under $10. It’s the kind of food that Italian
mamas make in the movies, and it’s the kind of food that I’ll
surely be having for many lunches—and a few dinners—while at my
new home away from home. V

Bucas & Pastas
16516 100 Ave • 496-2461

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