One of my go-to recipes during this pandemic has been Korean kalbi jjim short ribs, which are surprisingly super easy to make. I have my Korean mother to thank for sharing this simplified recipe with me. The hardest part is probably procuring all the ingredients. Many of them you can easily find in an Asian supermarket like H Mart or Sunrise Mart, but otherwise you can probably find them in the international aisle of a Whole Foods. As for the meat, try to get the bone-in short ribs. H Mart will usually have this in their meat aisle and it will be labeled kalbi meat. At Whole Foods, however, I find that it’s subject to availability–it is not part of the regular lineup like ground beef and sirloin. But when they do have it, I would highly recommend that you buy 2 lbs of it and make this recipe.Read More
Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria is the casual Italian spin-off of more formal sister restaurant Il Buco. “Alimentari” refers to the restaurant’s gourmet food market concept, which is located near the front entrance. Here, you can stock up on all of your high-end Italian essentials–it’s hard to resist the beautiful displays of amazing cured meats, local and imported artisanal cheese, loaves of fresh bread and scoops of sweet gelato.
“Vineria” refers to the restaurant and wine bar portion of the restaurant, which is located behind the retail storefront. About a third of the space is devoted to the wine bar, and the remaining area is filled with large, communal tables. The four of us slid awkwardly into a table already occupied by an older couple. I usually don’t mind communal dining in a really casual restaurant like Mighty Quinn’s or Back Forty, but I was a bit annoyed to have to go through it here. When you charge premium prices for your food, and when a large portion of your clientele is older and more formal looking, then communal tables don’t seem to be that appropriate. Luckily, I got over my discomfort and annoyance when the hearty and flavorful cooking won me over.
Any meal here must be preceded by a plate of the house salumi and a basket of the freshly baked bread. The hogs that Il Buco Alimentari uses must be the happiest, most well-fed pigs on the planet, because the pork meat here is the richest and sweetest that I’ve ever tried. The extremely delicate slices of salumi literally seem to melt in your mouth like a savory piece of lard. Placing a slice on top of the bread is a winning combination.
The appetizers were an excellent prelude to the equally delicious main courses that followed. The orecchiette was one of the best pasta dishes I’ve had in a long while. The quality of the freshly made, house-extruded ear-shaped pasta was quite impressive. It had that springy, chewy texture and slightly salty taste that you get from a perfectly cooked noodle. The salty fennel seasonings from the homemade sausage provided more depth to the flavor, and the parmigiano coated everything in a creamy, velvety sauce. The roasted gnocchi was also well executed although less memorable than the orecchiette. I personally think gnocchi tastes best when left in its soft, billowy form, which better absorbs the flavors of the underlying mashed potatoes and the surrounding sauce. With the roasted version, the char created from roasting the gnocchi dominates the flavor profile, and the more delicate flavors of the seasonings get lost.
The enormous plate of slow-roasted ribs arrived at the table in dramatic fashion. Huge slabs of tender meat fell off a piece of bone the size of a grown man’s forearm. The moist, fatty rib meat was so delicious that not even our “flexitarian” friends Tim and Caroline could resist a taste. As much as we raved about the ribs, the four of us could not finish the Paul Bunyan-sized portions. The crusty polenta didn’t even stand a chance, although the small bite that I did have was very satisfying and comforting.
As much as I enjoyed the meal at Il Buco Alimentari, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had just eaten dinner in the area reserved for a cooking demonstration at Williams-Sonoma. I understand that low-key is the theme that the owners were going for, but that seems a little disingenuous when entrees are priced over $30 a plate. I think it works better as a lunch place, where the lower price points and the quicker pace of the midday meal are more fitting for the cafeteria-like atmosphere. If you want something romantic or intimate, the sister restaurant is a better bet. If mood is secondary to good food, then by all means make multiple visits to Il Buco Alimentari.
Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria
53 Great Jones Street
New York, NY 10012