Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Return to Buca di Beppo

I feel like I've taken a mini-blog vacation! It has been several days since I logged into my blog account for purposes other than quickly reading the new posts of the blogs I follow (didn't want to get too far behind!) but I haven't taken time to comment on any blogs lately nor to post anything on mine. My super quick checks of email and blogs are because we had weekend visitors! EPAS and her husband and their 2 boys were here for a visit.

Friday I spent the day cleaning and doing other chores. On Saturday they arrived around noon and we had lunch together (just sandwiches -- we went out Saturday morning to get breads and meats & cheeses). Turns out our nephews like fried salami and bologna - bleah! Saturday evening, SP's family gathered for dinner -- at Buca di Beppo.

I know! We went back! Regular readers of this blog will likely remember my post from last April, the post about our rehearsal dinner at Buca di Beppo in Robinson and the horrible service and how disappointed I was.

Full disclosure: I did in fact write a letter of complaint to the manager. Additionally, someone from BdB saw my April blog post and contacted me about it. Then a regional manager contacted me, and everyone was extremely apologetic and to make it up to us, they offered a return trip to BdB for up to 15 people and they would cover the cost of the food, beverages (excluding alcohol), tax, and gratuity.

It was a very nice offer. I just wasn't sure when to take advantage. Of the 16 people at the rehearsal dinner, only 4 live in Pittsburgh (that includes us). Everyone else lives elsewhere (Las Vegas, Georgia, upstate NY, east PA) and I knew that everyone being in town at the same time again was probably not going to happen. So which family should get the 'free meal?' Fortunately, my parents are not the kind of parents/in-laws to really care about stuff like that, and neither is my brother, especially since it's difficult for them to get up here (flying for 4 people can get expensive but an 11 hour ride with the 5 year old nephew is pretty darn trying plus my brother doesn't like driving long distances anymore). Plus, SP's family is much larger than mine.

So we figured we'd use it the next time SP's mom & husband and/or EPAS and her family came to Pittsburgh. That 'next time' was this past weekend.

We chose our food ahead of time again - both to make it easier (it could get 'chaotic' trying to pick food to share for 10-13 people with different diet desires when seated around the table at the restaurant) and also because I wanted to see how pre-ordering went (recall that last time the kids' cheese pizzas were forgotten even though they were on the menu order confirmation).

So this past Saturday we gathered around the Pope's Table at Buca di Beppo in Robinson. The Pope's head in the middle of the table is still mildly creepy but I like the big round table with the large lazy susan -- you can see everyone and it makes passing the food easier although you do have to make sure no one is actively serving food when you spin the lazy susan!

As in April, we chose 3 appetizers to share. This time we chose:
Mozzarella Caprese:

Fried Mozzarella: And Fried Calamari:The spinning lazy susan - any little drift/shift caused my photos to blur! OK, I again opted for no flash, and the room is dark enough that the exposure time is lengthened when not using a flash, and any little shift of the table, lazy susan, or my hands/arms caused blurring. None of these photos is that great, but I decided to post them anyway so that anyone who reads this and who might be considering BdB can see portion size since all the dishes are meant to be shared. All of our dishes were large orders, not small.

All of these appetizers were fine, and amazingly, I think we ate all of the appetizer food. There ended up being 10 of us (including kids) since Slarb and SSO and their son couldn't make it.

There also was bread with butter and olive oil/vinegar for dipping. I do not remember olive oil/vinegar for dipping bread from last time - perhaps it's something new, or perhaps our server forgot last time, or perhaps in an effort to make it up to us we got something a little extra?

We ordered 2 salads. The Apple Gorgonzola Salad:And a Mixed Greens Salad:We got the dressings on the side since some people don't like dressing at all and some people don't like vinegar. I only ate the Apple Gorgonzola Salad, which I really enjoy. There's also spiced walnuts and dried cranberries in the salad. The Mixed Greens had black & green olives, onions, and pepperoncini peppers.

We chose 2 pastas. Spaghetti with Meatballs:And (prepare for even more blur) Linguine Frutti di Mare:
The Linguine Frutti di Mare has shrimp, baby clams, mussels, and calamari tossed with a spicy red clam sauce. I didn't try any of it because I don't like spicy and I don't really enjoy clams and mussels. SP and his dad really enjoyed it.

The meatballs are huge! They were pretty tasty, too.

We again chose 3 entrees. Chicken Marsala (sautéed chicken breasts and fresh mushrooms in a sweet Marsala wine reduction):Blurry Chicken Cacciatore (chicken breast cooked in a chunky "Cacciatore Style" red sauce flavored with mushrooms, capers, and Buca label Chianti):And Chicken Parmigiana (breaded and sautéed chicken breasts topped with marinara and mozzarella):This time we ordered one of the side dishes, green beans sauteed in olive oil and fresh lemon juice.Everything tasted fine. I thought the chicken marsala was a bit too sweet for my personal taste but SP didn't think it was too sweet. The huge mushrooms in it were delicious. I liked the chicken parmigiana a lot. I didn't try the chicken cacciatore but SP did and he really liked it. There were lots of onions and peppers and capers in it.

For dessert, we again got the Dolce Platter for everyone to share. From left to right, Apple Crostata, Cheesecake with a raspberry-hazelnut sauce, Double Dark Chocolate Cake, and Tiramisu:I tried a bit of each. I think the Apple Crostata was my favorite. I am again amazed that the chocolate cake wasn't as rich/dense as it looks, which is good, in my opinion. The Tiramisu was tastier than I remembered.

In addition to all of our sodas/iced teas/lemonades, we ordered 1.5 liters of the Buca Chianti to share, so we did have to pay for that. The Buca Chianti is fine. The 1.5 liter bottle gave 5 of us 1-2 glasses each.

Our server this time was a lovely woman. She was very friendly. She went over the menu with me ahead of time to double check everything. This time, the nephews' cheese pizzas came out with the salads, so that was very good since kids can get restless if the adults are eating and they aren't. Drinks were refilled promptly. The BdB manager stopped by a couple times to check on everything, which was nice and showed that BdB really did want to make sure we had a nice second experience.

We definitely had a much better experience this time. Was it because they were putting forth extra effort to make up for the rehearsal dinner? Was it because we had a good server this time and last time we had a server who was working his last day and didn't care? Is our good server from this time always this good? I think she is - I think last time we had a server who just didn't care because it was his last night (we were told after my complaint that it had been his last night and that perhaps that's why he didn't do a very good job). I would be hesitant to give a rehearsal dinner to someone on their last day of employment, much as I would be hesitant to give a new employee a large party (like at Carino's last May). We're a pretty laid back bunch and it takes pretty bad service to set us off. I stand by my complaints of the long service lapses, check confusion, and the kids' food complaints from last April. That experience really bothered me because I planned the rehearsal dinner and I felt that it reflected poorly on me and I didn't like the idea that it perhaps looked to my in-laws that I couldn't plan a nice rehearsal dinner.

We have no complaints from this past Saturday. Would we go back to Buca di Beppo? Yes. Especially with a largish group. It's fun to order a bunch of dishes to share, to try a bit of everything, to spin the Pope's head around, not to mention enjoy a lot of laughs with family about the spinning Pope, spinning food, and talking about the various dishes.

Most importantly, we need to thank Buca di Beppo. They did not have to offer to make it up to us, but they did, and not just the offer itself but the service we received last Saturday speaks volumes. It's nice to see a company that does care about patrons having a good experience and that is willing to make the extra efforts that Buca di Beppo made. So many thanks to Buca di Beppo in Robinson.


  1. I'm glad that decided to try to make amends for your rehearsal dinner. That does speak well for them. (I'm sure the bad publicity was motivating!)

  2. Yay, I'm glad they made it up to you guys. I like it when restaurants really show they care by doing everything they can to right a wrong. :)