It takes quite a lot to impress the local Ibiza foodie set. Not only do they have a plethora of fantastic restaurants on their doorsteps and exceptional local produce to use in their own kitchens; they’re also regular travellers with plenty of gourmet air miles clocked up and a taste for the finer things in life. When restaurateurs Donna Lennard and Alberto Avalle of famed New York restaurant Il Buco opened the brand’s first international outpost in Ibiza this year, there was no shortage of gourmands ready and waiting to take a seat on the buzzing terrace of the rustic chic Santa Gertrudis eatery. Its big sister’s reputation certainly preceded the all-new Bottega Il Buco and true to form, it delivered culinary satisfaction on a variety of levels.
From the outside, the rustic chic restaurant appears like a casual café; a laidback focacceria where one might catch up with friends; a place to pop in after the morning school run or to grab an after work aperitivo. Indeed, it is all these things. But Bottega Il Buco is so much more – scratch the surface and you’ll discover a multi-faceted gourmet hub that truly offers something for everyone. “When people hear Il Buco, they’re expecting something original and delicious, something local or very carefully sourced” explains Donna of the concept. “The idea was that we could have the background of this beautiful focacceria, but make it a multi-purpose space with all these other wonderful things going on like delectable bites, a beautiful wine list and the Alimentari.” It’s like a gourmet gift that keeps on giving.
Speaking of gifts, ‘tis the season to be giving and Bottega Il Buco is open throughout the holidays (see the seasonal menus here), making it the perfect place to get together with family and friends to celebrate or to do some Christmas shopping for the foodie in your life. The Alimentari is a cornucopia of gastronomy; lovingly refurbished antique post office drawers are home to row upon row of high-end olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, beautifully packaged tinned fish, artisanal pickled vegetables, mouth watering pates and of course, wine. Over 90 organic and bio dynamic drops have been expertly chosen by acclaimed Il Buco wine director Roberto Paris. “For Roberto, being in Ibiza was like being in a candy store,” says Donna. “There are so many amazing wine producers we know here [in Europe] and we don’t have to worry about importing to New York!”
Those looking for guidance in the Alimentari may find themselves falling under the spell of the well educated team – the service here is exceptional – as they guide you through the selection of products available. They’re well versed in how to serve or use everything on offer; while you may come for a special olive oil or pate, you’ll leave with a cherished recipe or unique serving suggestion. It’s all part of the experience. “There’s something for everybody here,” says Donna. “Regulars pop in to have coffee one day, then a few days later they’ll sit down with eight friends and go through the whole menu and some bottles of wine. It’s really become the hub that we wanted.” The local community has embraced Bottega Il Buco into its fold; Donna says the connection people have formed with the brand has been the most satisfying element of the expansion to Ibiza.
While the signature focaccia (made with ancient low-gluten grains) could almost be considered the ‘entry level’ dish at Bottega Il Buco, it’s just the beginning of the creative menu devised by executive chef Guido Trombettoni. The menu changes regularly to reflect the seasons and most dishes have been designed to share, Italian family style. Chunky tubes of paccheri are oozing with mozzarella, spinach and tomato stuffing, vying for attention alongside the savoury sausage, mushroom and artichoke lasagne; meanwhile the herbaceous classic chicken cacciatora with olives and chilli is a feast unto itself and seasonal roast veggies, salads and the soup of the day put paid to the old adage ‘Italians do it better’.
Diners are also welcomed to choose their favourite tinned goods from the Alimentari and eat-in the stylish restaurant surrounds; alternatively opt for a selection of the impressive salumi and cheese – hand-picked by Avalle himself. Paleta Ibérica, Mortadella, Salame Milano, Prosciutto and more tempt and tease alongside premium grade Pecorino Reserva, Salva Cremasco, Castelmagno, Fiore di Latte and other slabs of formaggi goodness – it’s the pick and mix of your epicurean dreams. It’s very easy to get carried away with all the heady home-cooking scents coming from the Bottega Il Buco kitchen and the dazzling display of the Alimentari, but a word to the wise: save room for dessert – you won’t regret it.
Special pre-fixe feasts have been designed for the festive period at Bottega Il Buco, starting with The Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. Bringing a touch of Italy to the village, the fabulous four-course meal includes oysters and Cava, an array of focaccia (naturally) plus specially selected tinned fish from the Alimentari and chef’s salad to start; an incredibly decadent risotto carnaroli with fresh mussels and bottarga comes next, followed by spit-roasted yellow tail and finishing with Yuletide treats such as Panettone, Pandoro with Chantilly cream, chocolate, grapes and clementines.
Due to the limited seating – and popularity amongst island residents – reservations are essential and the cost is 80€ per person, excluding drinks. For those looking to avoid all the hassle of cooking and washing up on Christmas Day, a special lunch menu is on offer at Bottega Il Buco for 70€ per person (again, pre-booking is a must) excluding drinks. A spread of antipasti kicks off the affair, with sautéed lamb offal, poached egg and artichoke, Sicilian anchovies and more, followed by Primi Piatti of Cappelletti in brood. Secondi Piatti comes in the form of Gran Bollito de Carne with pickles and the dessert spread (as above) gives you all the more reason to take the typical Italian passeggiata through the pretty village square after your meal.
To end its debut year with a bang, Bottega Il Buco is hosting a very special New Year’s Eve event that can serve as either the perfect start to your Ibiza party night or a cool and cosy way to end 2018 in style. The five-course set menu (95€ per person, excluding drinks) is a testament to chef Guido’s skills and a salute to the flavours of Il Buco; first, an aperitivo of focaccia and canapés with a glass of Frannciacorta. Next up, marinated wild Alaskan salmon and seaweed salad plus poached egg with black Umbrian truffle. To follow, a melt-in-your-mouth risotto carnaroli with langoustine and then yellowtail ‘al cartoccio’ and mixed roasted vegetables with fresh herbs.
The icing on the cake is the aforementioned desserts – then you can happily roll home into 2019 or into a nightclub to dance it all off. Whichever feast takes your fancy, Donna recommends taking home a personalised hamper to enjoy the following morning when you wake up. “It’s so nice to wake up after a special dinner and to already have that beautiful bread, salumi, cheese and those delectable tins at home,” she says – you can thank her later when your head’s a little fuzzy and you don’t have to walk any further than your own refrigerator. On the topic of thanks, Christmas and New Year always inspire bouts of gratitude and this year, Ibiza gives thanks to Bottega Il Buco, for bringing an authentic slice of New York – along with plenty of slices of that unforgettable focaccia – to our beloved island.