Al Buco has been on my radar for a while since opening in March this year. I took the opportunity to stop by with the Teen for a spot of lunch while shopping in Newcastle city centre. Hidden away near Old Eldon Square this charming family- run eatery promises original South Italian cuisine. Presented with a reasonably priced lunch time menu, we decided to go for the two courses at £8.95 option.
There’s tables outside, but as we’re moving into the colder weather I’d say they’ll not get as much use now as they did in the summer. I was helped down the stairs with my buggy by staff, but those with mobility issues may struggle to enter this basement restaurant.
I’ve had the ‘Parmesan is not vegetarian’ rant too many times to count and it’s supremely annoying for me. Not all cheese is vegetarian, so if you are to label a dish as suitable please check the ingredients before adding that magical (V) to the menu. Parmesan and other non-vegetarian cheese are made using animal rennet. In order to be called ‘Parmesan’ it has to be produced according to traditional methods which use calf rennet. There are vegetarian-friendly versions available on the market, which Al Buco stated they serve.
Al Buco prepare the majority of dishes up to order in their open kitchen, so even Mr. Canny could be accommodated. The Grigliata Di Verdura Mista sounds delicious, and I’m sure they would be able to prepare a dairy-free pizza with the toppings they have at their disposal. The homemade pasta may be a bit of an issue as this will likely be made from egg, and their menu also doesn’t state if there’s a gluten-free alternative available either.
The Teen chose Parmigana di Melanzane, which reminded me of Pani’s fantastic Lasagna. It was deliciously meaty due to the grilled aubergine, and the sweet homemade tomato sauce was begging to be mopped up with some crusty bread. This is how good veggie food should be, and it certainly didn’t feel like a compromise not having any meat.
The Panzerotto Pugliese arrived without the side salad, which I hadn’t realised until after the fact. I felt this fancy Italian pasty needed the garnish to make the plate more presentable. Stuffed with tomatoes, mozzarella and Parmesan, it was a simple but filling starter. Feeling envious, the Teen decided he wanted one to take away with him!
He chose the predictable Margherita Pizza, while I opted for Paccheri Al Vesuvio.
It was very similar to the Parmigana, with aubergines and mozzarella featuring. Portion sizes were adequate for lunch, although there was definitely room for something sweet afterwards! Unfortunately we were on a tight schedule, which means we will have to sample their Dolci next time round. The Meringue and Strawberry Zabaione looks the business, although the selection of desserts available changes daily.
As finalists of the English Italian Awards I was hoping for decent scran from Al Buco. Thankfully they didn’t disappoint with their warm, friendly staff and good food. The Parmigana Di Melanzane is highly recommended should you find yourself in the vicinity.
Thanks for reading,