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Buca di Beppo serves family fun, fine Italian cuisine

The room is filled with people laughing and having a good time as the sounds of an Italian opera float through the air. The scent of fresh baked bread and tonight’s meal come drifting out of the kitchen. Colorful bulbs are strung along the ceiling. The walls are plastered with pictures of friends and family.

A yell of excitement and a rush to the table signifies the food is ready, and everyone crowds around to load their plates with warm bread, crisp salad and mounds of spaghetti and chicken alfredo.

Sound like the latest family birthday dinner at Great Aunt Carol’s? Actually, it’s just another night at the neighborhood restaurant Buca di Beppo in East Norriton.

Based on Little Italy of the 1950s, Buca di Beppo emulates southern Italian décor and food. “Buca” means basement, and “Beppo” is southern Italian slang for “Giuseppe,” or Joe. So the name translates into “Joe’s Basement.”

Although some of the decorations may remind you of something you have seen in Great Uncle Joe’s basement, this isn’t your average Joe’s restaurant.

Our table was located in one of several dining rooms, but you can also choose to be seated in the bar or at the Pope’s table-a huge circular table that accommodates 18-20 people, complete with a mast of the Pope in the center, or the famed kitchen table-claimed to be the best seat in the house, and located right in the kitchen.

What I like best about Buca di Beppo is their family-style of eating. The dishes come out on platters, and people load up their own plates with whatever they want. It’s perfect for groups or for those who like to sample the menu.

First, we were served warm garlic bread. We also chose the Di Beppo “1893” salad, which was just the right mix of greens, onions and peppers, along with assorted meats and cheeses, lightly tossed in their own dressing. We ended the appetizers with calamari, breaded and fried squid served with a deliciously chunky tomato sauce.

Soon after, our server brought out our choice of entrees. Bucatini con pollo-chicken and broccoli with a rich alfredo sauce served over pasta, and the daily special-a hearty platter of lasagna, layer upon layer of meat, cheese, sauce and egg noodles. We had also chosen a side dish of green beans in olive oil with a just a hint of lemon.

Even though we were all feeling quite full by the end of the evening, we couldn’t resist ordering their special bread pudding for dessert. Buca’s bread pudding is a warm loaf, layered with pudding, raisins and chocolate chips, and topped off with a drizzle of caramel.

The server suggested taking home the dessert leftovers and frying them up like French toast the next morning.

With its family-style atmosphere, and family style dishes, it only seems right that Buca di Beppo serves up family-friendly prices. Most large dishes cost between $7 and $16 for appetizers and $19 and $25 for entrees.

You may also prefer to order several small dishes rather than one large one for a variety of foods to choose from.

Whatever you decide to order, you can be sure you won’t leave Buca’s hungry. So set aside your books, grab a group of friends and head out to the nearest Buca di Beppo for a night of food and fun!

For more information on Buca di Beppo hours, locations, directions and local menus, check www.bucadibeppo.com.

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