So what do Hulk Hogan, Jay Leno, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone and Lindsay Lohan have in common? Well, aside from naturally hairy chests, their aspirations of Popeness, and a love for the female form, they are all of Italian descent.
Now, it is widely rumored, and accepted as fact, that all celebrities having any amount of Italian in their heritage, aspire to be Pope. After all, who else can throw tantrums, tell a large portion of the population how to live their lives, and wear silly hats? Unfortunately, due to the tremendous physical strain and the fact that only men can become Pope, the only one sure to endure through the rigors of Conclave and eventually be appointed as the Supreme Pontiff is, undoubtedly, Madonna.
So why the big fuss over trying to become Pope? Is it the fancy robes, the many rings adorned with precious stones, the really cool Pope-Mobile, the fact that you own all Catholics, or, is it the young alter boys? No! All of these benefits can already be had by many celebrities. The one benefit of Popeship that can only be bestowed with Popedom, is the privilege of having your bust at the center of the Pope's Table at every Buca di Beppo restaurant! What could be better? Although many have had Madonna's bust, the pleasure has yet to be bestowed onto the center of a Buca di Beppo table.
The only way we peasants can even get close to such an honor as having our busts at the center of a dining table (other than changing your name to Skittles, oiling yourself up and dancing for dollar bills on a table at Olive Garden), is to reserve the Pope Table at your favorite Buca di Beppo location. Well, not having 15 friends with whom to share the table at the new Appleton location, but still wanting to see what the fuss was all about, my dining partner and I had to settle for a small booth in a corner watched over by our server, Pat.
The atmosphere is happily busy with about 17.2 million photos on the walls and the vibrant sounds of Italian music echoing through the entire space.
We started our meal with a pricey little appetizer of Bruschetta [broo-sket-uh, -shet-uh; It. broo-sket-tah]. Crisp Italian bread covered with olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Individually sliced grape tomatoes and basil overflowed the top giving it a fresh and authentic flavor. The price point of almost $11 was a little steep in my opinion (this is Appleton not LA), but the work that goes into it and the final result makes this appetizer for two almost worth the price.
I chose the Tomato and Basil soup as my accompaniment. Presentation was a bit sloppy and could have used a few bits of fresh basil on top which would have really stood out against the color of the base. Flavor was a bit better than Campbell's, but the tomato seeds were not completely strained out of the soup and they ended up having the effect of large boulders on an otherwise smooth country road - Da da da da da da ........ BAM! Not to my liking.
My entree was the popular Spaghetti with Meat Ball. Yes, "Meat Ball". Singular. Peerless. Only one. Having no other. Lance Armstrong. But, as Sheryl Crow might attest to, one is enough! The large meat balls served at this place are a meal in themselves! The spaghetti was cooked perfectly al dente. The sauce tasted fresh with lots of garlic slices and Italian goodness but had separated and left a puddle of flavor at the bottom of the bowl. The pasta had a hard time hanging on to the loose sauce and it was a bit difficult to incorporate all of the flavors onto each bite. The meat ball had a great flavor with well rounded herbs and spices and was reminiscent of my Aunt Bunny's meatloaf. I wouldn't mind having a couple of those balls on an Italian hoagie with fresh mozzarella and basil!
Overall, my meal at Buca di Beppo was quite flavorful with a freshness not usually found in other Italian chain restaurants. I felt the lunch prices were a bit high for the area, maybe deterring some guests, and the prices are perhaps the reason for the less-than-stellar Urbanspoon rating. Perhaps all of those poor ratings are from those who do not appreciate the size of Buca's balls! Although not as large as Madonna's, when you experience one, it leaves you feeling like a virgin!