One of my favorite ways to discover a new restaurant is by accident.
And that’s exactly what happened the other night when my friend and I set off to eat at a place that ended up being closed. As it turns out, that was quite fortuitous because right down the block, Bucatini Trattoria was beckoning.
The restaurant, which opened earlier this year, has an extensive menu of pastas, seafood, and chicken dishes, as well as pizzas prepared in a wood-fired brick oven. (Bucatini, by the way, is a thick spaghetti that has a hole running through its center.)
Among the starters is a different take on garlic bread. Instead of the dense bread used by many American-style Italian restaurants, Bucatini features a garlic flatbread sprinkled with parsley and melted pecorino Romano cheese. Bucatini’s manager, Francesca Phchang, also highly recommends the sausage flatbread.
Some great salads are another element that gets things off to a fresh start. I loved the Fresca (pictured right), which has baby mixed greens, shredded fennel, cantaloupe, slivered almonds, and feta cheese all tossed in a poppy seed dressing — and it’s a huge portion that easily serves two.
If you’re looking for a new take on fettuccine Alfredo, try Bucatini’s version with chicken and lemon zest. The lemon shines through in a delightfully subtle way that doesn’t overwhelm the dish, but definitely lifts it above one made with your average Alfredo sauce.
Among the restaurant’s most popular pastas, according to Phchang, are the spaghetti pescatora with shrimp, scallops, salmon, calamari, manila clams, and mussels in a spicy tomato sauce, linguine with fresh manila clams, and the Bucatini cacio and pomodoro featuring tomato basil sauce and pecorino Romano cheese.
If you’ve sometimes found yourself wrestling with whether to get your lasagna with a red sauce or a white sauce, Bucatini has solved your dilemma. Their Lasagna Emiliana is topped with equal amounts of both marinara and béchamel.
“And we use regular pasta sheets alternating with spinach pasta sheets,” says Phchang.
My friend ordered the dish and it looked absolutely beautiful when it arrived at our table — and tasted even better than it looked.
This great food is served up in an airy, industrial loft-like space with exposed duct work running along the ceiling and walls filled with colorful artwork, all of which is for sale, by local La Quinta artist William Cain.
Interestingly, the people in Cain’s paintings don’t have faces. While Phchang didn’t specifically know the artistic intent behind this choice, I loved her interpretation: “It doesn’t matter how you look or where you’re from, it’s how you live."
It was a nice sentiment, and the smile it brought to my face made me think that Bucatini was calling to me long before our accidental meeting.
Bucatini Trattoria, 46-660 Washington St., #8-9, La Quinta, 760-777-9007