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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

L.A.'s Il Buco: From Naples, With Love, on Robertson Blvd.

April 16, 1998|S. IRENE VIRBILA | TIMES RESTAURANT CRITIC

Giacomino Drago, youngest brother of Italian restaurateur Celestino Drago and chef at Il Pastaio in Beverly Hills, is doing a little moonlighting. With Andrea Bullo (manager of Prego), he's opened Il Buco on Robertson near Wilshire. Actually, Bullo found the place and invited Giacomino to do something there. The enthusiastic young chef had been wanting to do a little pizza place ever since he worked briefly at Il Pastaio with a young chef from Naples, Franco de Dominicis, who was, Giacomino said in an interview, "a real master of the pizza. He's been making it ever since he was 10 years old."

So Drago came, he looked, he liked. And then he called up De Dominicis, then working in London, and asked him to come back to L.A. and make pizzas at Il Buco. Which is where you can find De Dominicis every day except Sunday.

I can recommend the classic Margherita, and the Siciliana topped with tomatoes, eggplant, mozzarella and slices of baked ricotta. The Hollywood, which features cherry tomatoes with mozzarella and basil, is delicious, too. But I still have 10 or so more to taste my way through.

Funny thing is, almost as soon as the pizzeria-trattoria opened, Drago and De Dominicis got the urge to put more traditional Neapolitan dishes on the menu. "First I had 12 dishes, then 16, now I'm adding specials," says Drago, wryly. "As soon as the kitchen is going strong, I want to start letting the chef make some traditional dishes from Campania--I don't want Il Buco to be just another Italian restaurant in the neighborhood." We look forward to seeing more real Neapolitan cooking at Il Buco.

Meanwhile, during this first couple of weeks, the youngest Drago is wearing out the shoe leather running between Il Buco and Il Pastaio, where he continues to cook. He's not leaving Il Pastaio. This is just a little something on the side, he insists.

BE THERE

Il Buco, 107 N. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 657-1345. Open for dinner Monday-Saturday; for lunch, Monday-Friday. Major credit cards. Valet parking at night only. Antipasti, $8-$9.50; pastas, $8-$11; pizzas, $8-$13; main courses, $12-$13. Delivery available.

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