This summer, my husband and I are celebrating our 13th anniversary. As we were thinking about the best way to celebrate—definitely a night out, definitely good food—I tossed around the idea of trekking south to Portland. We lived out of town for a few years and have fond memories and many favorites in the town of Roses, one of the best being Italian coffee La Buca.
If I had to eat one kind of food for the rest of my life, it would be difficult between Mexican and Italian. In the end, I’m pretty sure the Italian would win, especially the Italian version of La Buca.
This northeast Portland restaurant is a go-to dining spot for anyone in the Pacific Northwest. It is truly the best Italian food I have found and I have visited my fair share in the area! I mean, that was my #1 request for my birthday weekend. And, confession, not only did I enjoy my meal that night, but I asked my husband to take our cooler so I could order a second meal to take out a day or two later once at home. home.
Now I’m sure you’re wondering which two dishes caught my taste buds four hours south as my birthday night of choice. And of course I share! Along with all the runners I have enjoyed on previous visits to La Buca.
To start – my husband and I shared a Caesar salad. La Buca does not make just any Caesar. They have homemade dressing AND homemade croutons that kick it up a notch. If I had room for more greens I would definitely have ordered the gorgonzola salad too. Romaine with apples, roasted walnuts and creamy homemade gorgonzola dressing can practically make a meal on its own. We also shared calamari. It’s the best part of dining with family and close friends – you can share menu items and taste more! This was the first time we had calamari from La Buca and my husband said he “could drink the lemon aioli” which was served on the side as a dipping sauce.
For main, I chose my all time favorite – pasta perfection called Vegetariana. It is rare that I select a vegetarian meal but this penne dish is delicious! The freshest of summer – roma tomatoes, broccoli and roasted yellow red peppers – are tossed with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil, and finished with a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts. This. East. Surprising.
Vegetariana filled me up for sure, especially after sharing a salad, calamari and complimentary rustic bread, but remember, I had planned to have a takeout meal! I opted for Abituale where once again penne pasta are the stars, but this time they are coated in a roasted garlic tomato cream sauce and tossed with spicy Italian sausage and parmesan cheese. Wow, super amazing! I took two bites before packing it to enjoy later. I tell you, ordering two meals is an awesome plan when you visit a favorite distant restaurant. Highly recommend.
Lest Vegetariana and Abituale tempt you, I stand behind quite a few other meals. As you might have guessed, when we lived in the south, I often visited La Buca! Basilico pesto is a classic (but better) pesto pasta dish and Al Forne is hands down the best baked lasagna dish. I always add chicken to it. La Buca is also where I learned to love risotto and appreciate all kinds of bruschetta.
Sadly, we were full before dessert, because isn’t it true that you can either find room for a starter or a finish? But, if you go the dessert route, you can’t miss La Buca’s bread pudding. It comes with a whiskey cream sauce that has never been replicated in my endless quest for bread pudding. Tiramisu is, of course, another decadent choice.
If a getaway south of Portland beckons, don’t leave Oregon without sampling the perfect Italian meal at La Buca. No doubt you will become a die-hard fan of this quaint cafe.
La Buca offers on-site dining – indoors and out – as well as take-out. They open at 5:00 p.m. everyday for dinner.