Bob: Beautiful country, Italy.
Secondo: You ever been there?
The movie "Big Night" -- one of my favorite food movies -- is about two Italian restaurants. One restaurant is a great small, authentic, gourmet Italian restaurant. It is run out of business by the second restaurant, which is a big, noisy American-Italian joint that panders to American tastes and serves a lot of spaghetti, tomato sauce, and cheese.
Buca di Beppo is just like the obnoxious American-Italian restaurant that ran the real Italian restaurant out of business. So many things about Buca are enourmous -- the portions, the wait for a table, the noise level, and most of the customers. Of course, the food has lots of tomato sauce and cheese, much of the food is fried, and all the wine is cheap. In short, the food is not authentic, has no individual character, and bears little relation to any food I had in Italy. But is it really so horrible?
I confess that sometimes I enjoy Buca. It delivers on the American mythical stereotype of Italian food. My favorite dishes are the chicken marsala and the Margherita Pizza. Plus, my seven-year-old daughter loves the noise, the wall decorations, and the fried food. On occasion, mass production chain restaurants that butcher traditional cuisine with kitsch and pandering just feel soulless. Once in a while, though, the kitsch and pandering can be fun.
Still, would I rather go to Buca di Beppo than da Marco, Simposio, Damian's, Nino's, Arcodoro, or even Star Pizza? Not on your life.