[Missed an installment? Catch up with 30 Burgers in 30 Days in our meaty archive.]
Pappardelle fume in a smokey bacon and cream sauce. Thin pizzas laden with prosciutto, burrata and the like. Giant, fluffy squares of tiramisu. Osteria La Buca is known for many things -- none of them a burger.
At night, Osteria La Buca is a snug haven, offering new-generation Italian comfort food in an atmosphere equally suitable for friendly groups or lovers seeking an intimate dinner. During the day, it's a breezy neighborhood restaurant, where the most surprising thing on the menu is a burger. Served with fried gnocchi and costing $12, it's no ordinary burger.
Meat & Bun: The bun is a glistening brioche. How many times have we used that phrase during this experiment? Too many, but that's because it's true. Even among the other contenders, this is one of the better brioches, built with fortitude and plenty of egg.
Ground coarsely but packed firmly, the burger -- cooked medium though we asked for it medium rare -- has a distinctly muscular quality. This is no shrinking violet. This is a burger that announces its presence with every bite. It's bold and confident, soft and succulent, though without much of a char.
Toppings: The bed of arugula -- fresh and Technicolor green -- underneath the burger offset the intensely sweet onion and balsamic compote. The thinnest smear of aoli added a garlic kick. The cheese, which the menu lists as blue-mozzarella, tasted much more like mozzarella than blue but added the perfect note of salt and cream. In all, it's a harmonious and excellently balanced blend of flavors.
Sides: Instead of fries, you get about a dozen softly fried, lightly salted pillows of dough with a cup of marinara sauce for dipping. Not merely a passable substitute for French fries, fried gnocchi seems like a brilliant marriage of Italian comfort food and American bar snacks. If it's not already on the happy hour menu of every decent Italian-esque wine bar in the city (hint, hint), it should be.
Dessert: They've got everything from homemade apple pie to a chocolate pot de crème, but here, the go-to dessert is tiramisu. After the burger, it was too rich for our blood, but our weakness shouldn't hold you back.
The Upshot: At $12 for a burger and a side of fried gnocchi, this has to be one of the best gourmet burger deals in L.A. The burger is great and because most people aren't aware of Osteria La Buca's lunchtime menu, you can usually walk in, get a table and order your food with remarkable efficiency.
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- Day 28: Hamburger Habit in West LA
- Day 27: Taylor's Prime Steak in Koreatown
- Day 26: Master Burger in Jefferson Park
- Day 25: Burgers & Burrata at Little Dom's in Los Feliz
- Day 24: Morton's The Strakhouse in downtown LA
- Day 23: Rustic Canyon Wine Bar in Santa Monica
- Day 22: Bar Bouchon in Beverly Hills
- Day 21: Stout in Hollywood
- Day 20: Mom's Burgers in Compton
- Day 19: Bill & Hiroko's in Van Nuys
- Day 18: Pacific Dining Car in Koreatown
- Day 17: Pie 'n Burger in Pasadena
- Day 16: Blue Dog Beer Tavern in Sherman Oaks
- Day 15: Exotic Meats at Billy's Burgers
- Day 14: Ground & Pound at The Bucket
- Day 13: Bacon Heaven at The Oaks Gourmet Market
- Day 12: Lazy Ox Canteen
- Day 11: Cassell's in Koreatown
- Day 10: Burgers & Beer at The Bottle Room
- Day 9: Pretzel Buns at Hole In The Wall Burger Joint
- Day 8: Late Night Burgers at Eveleigh
- Day 7: Apple Pan Keeps on Truckin'
- Day 6: Perfection at Comme Ça
- Day 5: The Fix Is In
- Day 4: Fun with Buns at Rounds Premium Burgers
- Day 3: Whipped Cream & Other Delights at The Counter
- Day 2: Kimchi & Cultural Fusion at Kalbi Burger
- Day 1: Alcohol & Excess at GO Burger