February 24, 2008

Buca di Beppo

The Vegas Vegan is now galavanting around town searching for great Vegan cuisine right here in Las Vegas - home of the $4.99 Prime Rib buffet. Every where you look there are billboards with giant slabs of meat: come eat here. Yummy greasy meat under heat lamps just for you. What's a Vegan to do? Well, there are alternatives and I'm finding them! Dining out for a Vegan isn't scary in Vegas. In fact, it can be quite fun!

To begin this blog, I am starting off with what on the surface appears to be one of the most difficult dining experiences to crack: Family Style Italian Dining. I don't order salads when I go out to eat, and I don't consider eating a salad a "vegan alternative" so I refuse to be told when I go out to eat that the only option is a salad! When that happens, the chef can count on never seeing me again.

We begin with last night's dining experience at "Buca di Beppo". It is a family style restaurant, which means LARGE portions that everyone can share. We dined with college friends who have recently given up red meat & pork, so this made the experience much friendlier. When my friend called to make our reservation she told the manager that there were vegetarians and vegans in the party of 4 adults & 3 kids and he quickly rattled off several items that would be appropriate. As usual, there's always less vegan food than vegetarian, but it's not like I'm a slob & need to eat 5 different things at dinner to feel satisfied. Give me one good choice & I'm happy!

So we came armed with the knowledge that we would find at least 2 items to eat last night. Our friends started off my by ordering Bruschetta for the table. After a quick check in with the waitress to reassure me that there was no cheese in the Brushetta topping, we devoured the pizza sized portion. Mmm.... Very tasty. Not to garlicky. Not too onion-y.

Time to order meals. Our friends ordered a cheese pizza and spaghetti. Matt & I ordered: "PENNE CAMPOFIORE A fresh vegetarian pasta featuring zucchini, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, escarole, garlic and Romano cheese in a light vegetable broth."

It was quite tasty, but a little heavy on the garlic. Thankfully the waitress & subsequently the chef listened to our request for no cheese. For my taste, there were too many sun-dried tomatoes & not enough artichoke or escarole. A little heavy on the garlic and broth & too light on the veggies! But it was good. We packed up the leftovers to bring home.

Andrew ordered the Pan Fried Fresh Mozzarella. I have to admit this was always my favorite appetizer at any Italian restaurant. But last night, looking at those greasy cheese cakes just turned my stomach. Matt kept saying, "I wish I could have had one," but for the first time it looked unappealing. I haven't eaten anything that greasy in ages and just the thought of it had me regretting leaving the rolaids at home.

In all, dining at Buca wasn't difficult. It wasn't as easy as some other places we have been, though. We were limited to one appetizer & one entree, although it would have been possible to just get a plate of spaghetti w/o meatballs. To which I say "If I can make it at home then there's no reason for me to spend money at a restaurant for it!"

Buca will be pretty low on our list of frequented restaurants but at least we know we can do it. There is another great little Italian cafe right around the corner from our house which has many more options & a smaller kitchen. They have whipped me up some tasty treats in the past a la carte!


Buca di Beppo has 2 locations in Las Vegas:

Buca di Beppo Las Vegas — Paradise
412 East Flamingo Road
Las Vegas, NV 89169

Buca di Beppo Summerlin
7690 West Lake Mead Boulevard
Las Vegas, NV 89128