Buzo Osteria Italiana: An Homage to Italy and Love
Cristian Grini’s Italian roots are reflected in both the exquisite menu and stunning décor at Buzo Osteria Italiana.
— By Amie Watson
— Photography: Kenneth Theysen
“I’m Italian, so it’s all about food and love”, says the chef, who’s shaving prosciutto and mortadella into paper-thin slices and carefully placing generous handfuls of them on a wooden board next to juicy imported olives, 48-month aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, creamy Brie, truffled Gorgonzola and acacia honey. With the antipasti platter comes rosemary focaccia, still warm from the oven. The kitchen bakes it twice daily, before lunch and dinner, so it comes to the table fresh.
Growing up in Urbino in central Italy, Chef Grini remembers his grandfather waking up at 4 a.m. every day to milk the cow and feed the animals. “He’d boil the milk and give me a cup of it with just a little bit of coffee”, he says. Breakfast was grilled bread on the fireplace, then a few pieces of prosciutto or salami with cheese cut from the wheel stored in the family’s credenza. “We had this old piece of cabinetry, and inside was one big wheel of cheese that my granddad was buying each week.”
Promptly at noon, his grandmother would serve lunch – often home-made cappelletti or ravioli made with eggs from their chickens. “My grandma is 93 and she still makes ravioli. She’ll pick the herbs in the campo, in the fields, and even now when I go home, I always steal one bag of cappelletti and one bag of ravioli”, he says with a smile.
Buzo bears little resemblance to his nonna’s farmhouse kitchen, but Grini’s family memories are featured throughout the restaurant: the credenza, the pizza oven fire, the Buzo-labelled imported Italian olive oil and balsamic vinegar, the black and white photos, and even the flowers, which his grandmother loved. "I love modern, clean and neat, but everything in the restaurant has a purpose that’s related to the old times”, he says.
That includes the food. There’s no dried pasta on the menu. Like his grandma does, everything is made fresh with high-quality Italian flour, including the tortelli with spicy Calabrian sausage, the black seafood tagliatelline made with fresh squid ink, and the beetroot and potato gnocchi (the chef’s favourite) with zucchini, soft goat’s milk cheese, creamy Mascarpone and crispy breadcrumbs. “It’s not just about memories”, says the chef. “You cannot forget about your family. You have to transmit and pass on those smells, those colours, those emotions.”
Buzo’s famous polenta is also based on his grandmother’s recipe, though the truffle oil and the presentation are the chef’s additions. “I won’t tell you the recipe, but there’s a lot of cheese – Parmigiano-Reggiano, mascarpone and Gorgonzola – and truffle honey that we infuse for four or five days with white truffle”, he says. Another recipe he won’t give is the Ligurian meatballs, though he will say that they’re made with ground pork, beef, turkey, and cheese. “That’s close to my grandma’s recipe, too.”
You’ll wish your grandmother could fry calamari, shrimp and zucchini to the crispy, lightly salted perfection of Buzo’s fritto misto appetizer. It doesn’t even need the accompanying ramekin of slow-cooked tomato sauce for dipping, but the sauce is worth eating with a spoon once you’ve enjoyed every bite of the tender seafood.
Other must-try dishes include the caprese salad, reinvented with home-made balsamic pearls that pop sweet-and-sour in your mouth; the blueberry, cranberry, apple and pecan salad with balsamic (yes, you do need two salads); and anything from the wood-fired pizza oven, which cooks the crust of a classic margherita pizza with mozzarella di bufala and basil to a bubbly, crisp-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside finish in two-and-a-half minutes. (Despite the short cooking time, the chef manning the oven rarely moves from the flame since the restaurant also does takeaway.)
But let’s go back to why you need two salads for a moment, because as much as food is about love, it’s also about friendship and sharing, says Grini. “Not everyone likes to share their meal”, he admits, “but in Italy it’s something we appreciate. The culture is different. The perfect meal at Buzo could be two glasses of wine with a platter of cured meat and cheese, or a complex one with appetizers, mains and desserts, with a comatose state at the end of the meal”.
As he places plate after plate on the table, from fresh pasta to salads, fish, meat, and finally tiramisu, that comatose state seems wonderfully inevitable. It also feels authentically Italian.
Buzo has locations in Barbados, Trinidad, and soon in Kingston, Jamaica.